US stock index futures surrendered some gains on another mediocre weekly jobless claims report, but were still positive as investors focused more on gains in exports from China.
The government said unemployment filings fell 3,000 to 453,000 in the past week, a number a bit higher than expected through continuing claims were at their lowest since December 2008.
Dow futures shaved about 15 points after the report but indicated a gain of more than 0.5 percent at the market open.
Elsewhere, BP got hammered Wednesday, hitting their lowest level since 1997, even as the company said it saw no justification for such a move.
The stock fell 16 percent to add to its $82 billion in lost market cap value since the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
But BP shares clawed back in premarket trading Thursday, gaining 12 percent to trade most recently at $32.62.
At the same time, crude oil climbed past $75 a barrel as the International Energy Agency said the spill could be a "game changer" for supply while increasing its estimate for demand this year.
Meetings of the European Central Bank and the Bank of England will be watched ahead of the Wall Street open for signs on whether the crisis around the euro zone debt issues is abating.
On Wednesday, news that Chinese exports grew about 50 percent in May from a year earlier fuelled a surge in market confidence across the globe. But the leap put new pressure on U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to soothe congressional critics who claim Beijing is keeping the yuan unfairly undervalued.
In addition, China urged the United States on Thursday not to be suspicious about its U.S. Treasury holdings, after the Senate voted to require regular reports on security risks posed by debt held by China and other nations.
The European Central Bank held its key interest rate at a record low of 1 percent. The ECB faces a grilling over the euro zone's debt crisis on Thursday after a torrid month in which it has abandoned resistance to buying government debt and flung its exit strategy into reverse. The Bank of England will also decide on monetary policy.
UK industry representatives expressed alarm yesterday at the “inappropriate” and increasingly aggressive rhetoric being deployed against BP by President Barack Obama, and warned that the attacks on the oil company could damage transatlantic relations.
Asian stocks rose, but fears lingered that the euro zone's sovereign debt crisis may be spreading. Tokyo and Taipei markets were up over 1 percent, as above-average Chinese export data fuelled confidence that the global economic recovery is on track. The Nikkei ended 1.1 percent higher, moving away from six-month lows hit the previous day, after strong Chinese exports boosted hopes for the global recovery.
Gold slipped after Bernanke said bullion was sending a different signal in response to inflation. The metal struck a record at $1,251.20 on Tuesday after investors ditched risky assets, and suspicions lingered over the future of U.S. interest rates.
On Wednesday, AT&T said some users of Apple’s iPad have had personal information exposed via a network security flaw, two months after the tablet computer was launched and smashed sales expectations.