Futures Pare Losses After Jobless Claims; Heinz Surges 20%

U.S. stock index futures shaved some losses Thursday after a better-than-expected jobless claims report and a batch of M&A announcements, but a disappointing reading on the European economy put a damper on gains.

(Read More: Traders Watch for What Might Jolt Market Next)

On the economic front, jobless claims dropped 27,000 to a seasonally adjusted 341,000 last week, according to the Labor Department. Economists polled by Reuters had expected claims to fall to 360,000.

H.J. Heinz soared more than 20 percent in pre-market trading following an announcement that the maker of ketchup and other food products will be purchased by Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and 3G. The deal will be worth $72.50 a share, or $28 billion. Other packaged-goods companies were also trading higher in the wake of the announcement, including General Mills, Kellogg and Kraft Foods.

In another big piece of deal news, American Airlines and US Airways announced they will merge to form the largest airline in the world in a deal valued at $11 billion.

The chief executives of the two airlines announced the merger in Dallas. Doug Parker, the current CEO of U.S. Airways, will take charge of the new airline.

Meanwhile, European shares were in the red across the board following a report that showed the euro zone fell deeper into recession in the final quarter of 2012, with GDP contracting 0.6 percent. The drop was the biggest since the first quarter of 2009. For the year, GDP fell by 0.5 percent.

Among earnings, PepsiCo topped analyst estimates due to higher prices for products and strong sales in Latin America. Its shares gained 1.6 percent in pre-market trading.

General Motors posted earnings short of analyst expectations as the company said weak European sales hit the company's bottom line. Shares edged lower.

Rio Tinto slid after the metals and mining group posted a loss for 2012, New CEO Sam Walsh vowed to slash costs and invest capital more carefully in 2013.

Carnival declined after the cruise operator warned that its latest mishap near the Mexican coast will reduce its earnings and canceled a dozen more cruises aboard the ship.

CBS and GoldCorp are expected to post earnings after the closing bell.

The Energy Department will issue its weekly look at natural gas inventories across the U.S. at 10:30 am ET.

And the Treasury will auction $16 billion in 30-year bonds with the results available shortly after 1pm ET.

—By CNBC's JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)

Coming Up This Week:

THURSDAY: Natural gas inventories, Fed's Bullard speaks, 30-yr bond auction, Fed balance sheet/money supply, 13-F filings; Earnings from CBS
FRIDAY: Empire state mfg survey, Treasury int'l capital, industrial production, Fed's Pianalto speaks, consumer sentiment, e-commerce retail sales, credit card default rates reported; Earnings from Campbell

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