U.S. stock-index futures stepped modestly higher on Wednesday, a day after the Dow rose above 18,000 for the first time, as data showed fewer Americans than expected filed for unemployment benefits last week, with trading volume likely to be thin a day ahead of the Christmas holiday.
Futures drifting higher after the Labor Department reported jobless claims fell by 9,000 to 280,000 in the week ending Dec. 20. The four-week moving average fell to 290,250 last week from 298,750.
Achillion Pharmaceuticals rose in early New York trading after Tuesday's 24 percent drop as biotechnology shares were hit by worries insurers and drug-benefit managers might try to restrict how the price of drugs; Cal-Maine Foods fell after the egg producer reported quarterly earnings short of estimates.
Investors cheered Tuesday's so-called "Santa rally" which saw the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average set records in a fifth day of gains after data showed the U.S. economy expanded in the third quarter by the most in 11 years.