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US stock futures maintain gains after economic data

Wall Street looked set to open higher, as stocks in Europe enjoyed a relief rally over the U.S. Federal Reserve's accommodative policy stance.

Stock-index futures held their gains after economic data had 280,000 Americans filing jobless claims last week, and housing starts falling 14.4 percent in August.

Investors cheered Fed Chair Janet Yellen's decision to reiterate that interest rates would not be hiked for a "considerable time" after quantitative easing ended, sending the Dow to a record high Wednesday.

"Language around economic activity was practically identical to the July statement," Evan Lucas a market strategist at IG Markets, said in a research note.

On Thursday, Yellen will speak on consumer finance at an event in Washington. Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher speech at a separate event might shed light on his hawkish case for near-term policy action.

No major companies are expected to report earnings before Wall Street opens. Oracle will post numbers after markets close.

Also after the close, Alibaba is set to launch the biggest-ever initial public offering (IPO). The Chinese company is seen pricing its shares on the Nasdaq exchange between $66 and $68, meaning the issue could be worth as much as $21.8 billion.


—By CNBC's Katy Barnato