Futures Higher, But Economic Fears Remain

U.S. stock-index futures pointed to a strong open on Wall Street Thursday, helped by more strength from European stock markets and China's assurance it is not planning on getting rid of European debt.

Futures shaved some gains after separate economic reports showed the employment recovery remains lackluster and first-quarter growth was a bit slower than originally thought.

The Dow closed below 10,000 for the first time since February on Wednesday, as investors worried that the debt crisis could reverse the global economic recovery.

Warehouse club Costco reported a jump in quarterly profit that equated to 68 cents a share as sales picked up at the big-box retailer. Shares rose 2.7 percent in premarket trading.

More positive earnings news came from high-end jeweler Tiffany, which reported earnings more than doubled over the past year. The company also raised its outlook, sending shares up 3.2 percent premarket.

And Microsoft rebounded a day after news that the software giant had lost its top spot in tech market cap to Apple . Microsoft gained 2.8 percent premarket.

News that China may be reassessing its European debt holdings also rattled investors, but China denied these concerns, insisting that Beijing was committed to its goal of diversifying foreign exchange reserves.

A statement on the website for China State Administration of Foreign Exchange Thursday said reports that may sell some of its holdings in eurobonds were "groundless."

Looking to the economy, Richmond Federal Reserve President Jeffrey Lacker said that he was beginning to reconsider whether the central bank's vow to keep interest rates low for an "extended period" is still appropriate as the US recovers.

And Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner appealed for swift European action to calm markets to Germany, the key player that stunned markets last week with its ban on shorting naked credit defaults swap trades, as well as other speculative trades.

Oil extended its rally to $72.50 per barrel, but gold and the US dollar are slightly down.

And BP announced Wendesday its latest experimental technique to stop oil gushing from a well in the Gulf of Mexico, called “top kill.” BP will force-feed a heavy, mud-like substance into the well, which is submerged 5,000 feet underwater, and is expected to find out if the move is a success Thursday.

BP's US-traded shares jumped 4 percent premarket.

On the economic calendar, the second estimate of first-quarter gross domestic product (GDP) will be released at 8:30 am New York time, with analysts forecasting an improved annual rate of 3.3 percent, up from a rate of 3.2 percent the previous quarter.

Also at 8:30 am, initial jobless claims are due, with economists expecting claims for first-time benefits of 455,000, down from 471,000 the week prior.

In addition, continuing claims are forecast to drop.