NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
They're still above $42 a barrel, but oil futures' easing in the overnight hours could help U.S. stocks at Thursday's open.
Early Thursday, Nasdaq and S&P futures were modestly higher.
After reaching an all-time high of $43.05 a barrel during Wednesday trading, U.S. crude futures fell 45 cents to $42.45 a barrel in electronic trading; Brent oil futures slipped 47 cents to $39.06 a barrel in London.
The pullback came after Yukos, the Russian oil company, said the nation's justice ministry had lifted a ban on asset sales. That ban, announced Wednesday, was perceived to include the beleaguered company's oil assets, contributing to the futures runup.
Stocks bounced off their lows Wednesday to finish mixed. The Dow Jones industrial average managed a 0.3 percent gain, while the Nasdaq composite index lost 0.6 percent (see chart for details).
For details of Wednesday's session, click above
Asian-Pacific stocks ended lower Thursday, with Tokyo's Nikkei index down 0.8 percent. European markets gained ground in early trading. (Check the latest on world markets)
Among U.S. stocks trading in Europe, General Motors was nearly 2 percent higher. The world's biggest carmaker said it expects to report improved July sales.
Treasury prices fell in early trading, sending the 10-year note yield up to 4.62 percent from 4.58 percent late Wednesday. The dollar eased against the yen, but was higher versus the euro. Gold moved higher .
Economic reports Thursday include the reading on employment costs during the second quarter. The employment cost index rose 0.9 percent, according to a Labor Department report, down from a 1.1 percent increase posted in the first quarter and in line with the forecasts of economists surveyed by Briefing.com.
The number of people filing for initial jobless benefits last week rose more than expected to 345,000 from a revised reading of 341,000 the previous week. Economists had forecast 340,000 would file for benefits.
In corporate news, insurer MetLife (MET: Research, Estimates) reported it's being audited by the Internal Revenue Service. The company also reported higher second-quarter earnings that topped estimates and raised 2004 guidance.
Exxon Mobil (XOM: Research, Estimates) reported higher oil prices lifted earnings per share 42 percent in the second quarter to 88 cents, in line with First Call's forecast.
German-American automaker DaimlerChrysler (DCX: Research, Estimates) reported a sharp increase in second-quarter earnings early Thursday and a shakeup of its top executives, with a new head of its Mercedes unit and the departure of Wolfgang Bernhard, who had been No. 2 at the company's Chrysler Group.