Futures Gain on Earnings, Jobless Claims

U.S. stock index futures were higher Thursday, lifted by a batch of better-than-expected earnings and after an upbeat jobless claims report.

On the economic front, jobless claims declined 16,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 339,000, according to the Labor Department. Analysts had expected 351,000 new claims last week, according to a Reuters poll.

Among earnings, oil giant ExxonMobil gained after the Dow component reported quarterly earnings and revenue that topped market expectations, helping the company to distribute $7.6 billion worth of dividends and buybacks to shareholders.

United Parcel Service edged higher after the package delivery company reported earnings that topped forecasts, thanks to improvement in ground and export shipments.

(Read More: Earnings Season Mixed as European Hurdles Remain)

Disappointing earnings news has already stung plenty of big name stocks, including telecom giant AT&T and consumer staples favorite Procter and Gamble in the previous session.

Dow Chemical rose after the chemical company beat earnings expectations.

However, 3M declined after the conglomerate missed profit and revenue expectations and slashed its 2013 earnings forecast, due to weakening demand and foreign currency fluctuations.

Earlier on Thursday, consumer goods firm Unilever said slowing North American sales growth and unusually cold weather in Europe affected its first-quarter results; shares fell by over 5 percent. AstraZeneca posted a drop in first quarter sales as patent expiries took a heavy toll.

Meanwhile, Starbucks, Amazon, Expedia, Baidu and Coinstar are among notable companies scheduled to post earnings after the closing bell.

Also, the Energy Department will issue its weekly look at natural gas inventories at 10:30 am ET.

In the bond markets, the Federal Reserve will auction $29 billion of 7-year notes with the results available shortly after 1 pm ET.

Across the Atlantic, European shares pared losses early on Thursday after the U.K. posted better-than-expected first quarter gross domestic product numbers, helping the country avoid a triple-dip recession.

(Read More: Triple-Dip for UK as Economy Grows 0.3%)

In other stock news, Verizon Communications hired advisors to prepare a $100 billion cash-and-stock-bid to take full control of Verizon Wireless from Vodafone, Reuters reported on Thursday, citing anonymous sources.

(Read More: Verizon Eyes $100 Billion Bid for Verizon Wireless)