Dow futures briefly gained 100 points, boosted by gains in JPMorgan and energy stocks.
Shares of JPMorgan Chase briefly gained more than 2 percent in pre-market trade after the banking giant reported net income of $5.4 billion, earnings per share of $1.32, on revenue of $23.7 billion, beating estimates.
Oil held higher in morning trade, with U.S. crude above $31 a barrel and Brent near $30.70 a barrel as of 9:18 a.m. ET.
St. Louis Fed President James Bullard—a voting member of the central bank's policymaking committee—said in a speech Thursday morning that the recent move in oil prices has been "very substantial" and has implications for monetary policy.
He added that U.S. inflation expectations appear to be falling and that the lower expectations are worrisome, but that low oil prices are a "net positive" for the U.S. economy.
Weekly jobless claims came in at 284,000. December import prices fell 1.2 percent.
Treasury yields held lower, with the 2-year yield near 0.90 percent and the 10-year yield at 2.08 percent as of 8:34 a.m. ET.
The U.S. dollar traded a touch lower against major world currencies, with the euro near $1.089 and the yen at 117.77 yen against the greenback.
Euro zone inflation could miss the European Central Bank's already lowered forecast but the bank needed to maintain some powder dry at its December meeting in case more policy easing would be required later, the meeting's minutes showed on Thursday.
Risks, particularly from emerging markets and geopolitical turmoil, continue to weigh on euro zone growth while governments are still not doing their part in fostering growth with reforms and fiscal accommodation, the bank said in the accounts of its Dec 3 policy meeting, Reuters reported.
Expectations are low for corporate profits this quarter, with analysts projecting a consensus 4.7 percent decline for S&P 500 profits, according to Thomson Reuters.
In Asia, Japan's Nikkei finished 2.68 percent lower. In China, the Shanghai Composite closed 1.96 percent higher. In Europe, the pan European Stoxx 600 index was around 2.25 percent percent lower on Thursday morning.
--Reuters and CNBC's Patti Domm contributed to this report