Stock index futures added to gains Thursday after the government reported an unexpectedly large drop in jobless claims.
Initial claims for unemployment fell 20,000 to 368,000 last week, the lowest level since May 2008, while the four-week moving average fell 12,750 to 388,500, the Labor Department reported.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims would rise to 398,000 from a downwardly revised 388,000 the week before.
Stocks ended slightly higher Wednesday on forecast-beating private-sector jobs data, although traders kept a wary eye on political unrest in the Middle Eastand rising oil prices.
Futures slipped a few points, before reboudning, after jobless claims were released as European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet spoke on Thursday, saying an increase at the ECB's next meeting is possible. Earlier Thursday, the ECB kept rates at 1 percent.