NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- U.S. stock futures moved higher Thursday morning, bolstered by a better-than-expected jobless claims report, ahead of Friday's monthly jobs report.
The Dow Jones industrial average (), S&P 500 ( ) and Nasdaq ( ) futures were slightly higher. Stock futures indicate the possible direction of the markets when they open at 9:30 a.m. ET.
An hour before the opening bell, futures got a lift from the latest weekly initial jobless claims report, the last report on the labor market before Friday's crucial monthly jobs data.
Stocks have also received some support from better-than-expected first-quarter corporate results. Sixty-eight percent of the S&P 500 companies that have reported so far have beat analysts' expectations, according to Capital IQ.
U.S. stocks ended mixed Wednesday as investors digested the weak ADP report and mostly upbeat corporate results.
Overall, it's been an anemic past few weeks for markets. Fears about a so-called hard landing in China, a stalled U.S. recovery and a flare-up in Europe's debt crisis have been weighing on investors in recent weeks, leading to the worst monthly returns of the year in April.
The European Central Bank announced on Thursday that it left interest rates unchanged, a move widely expected by investors. The ECB's main overnight lending rate remains at 1%.
World markets: European stocks rose in morning trading ahead of a scheduled speech from ECB president Mario Draghi. Britain's FTSE 100 ( ) ticked up 0.6%, the DAX ( ) in Germany added 0.8% and France's CAC 40 ( ) rose 1.1%.
Asian markets ended mixed. The Shanghai Composite () edged up just less than 0.1%, while the Hang Seng ( ) in Hong Kong slid 0.3%. Tokyo was closed for a holiday.
Economy: Initial jobless claims for the week ended April 28 totaled 365,000, according to the Labor Department, which was less than expected.
Jobless claims were forecast to total 375,000, according to a survey of economists by Briefing.com -- an improvement from the revised figure of 392,000 in the week prior.
Futures got a mild lift from the report, though Sageworks analyst Sam Zippin said the decline is not statistically significant. "While the drop is positive, it still isn't a huge change," she said.
Economists surveyed by CNNMoney are forecasting that Friday's report will show employers added 160,000 jobs to payrolls in April, but that the unemployment rate will remain unchanged at 8.2%.
A report on private-sector hiring from payroll processor ADP came in weaker than expected on Wednesday. And Thursday morning, the firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas reported that job cuts rose to 40,559 in April -- an increase of 7% from March and of 11% from a year ago.
Also on Thursday at 10 a.m. ET the ISM Services index for April is expected to come in at 55.5, down from 56.0 in March.
Foodmaker Kraft is forecast to report earnings of 56 cents a share, up from 52 cents a year earlier.
Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (plummeted more than 40% in late trading Wednesday, after the company reported quarterly revenue that missed estimates and lowered its guidance for 2012.) shares
Shares of online reviews site Yelp (reported a net loss of $9.8 million, or 31 cents per share, for the first quarter of 2012 -- its first as a publicly traded company. Yelp is in the process of investing in international expansion.) slipped after the company
Private equity firm The Carlyle Group priced its IPO Wednesday evening at $22 per unit, which was lower than its proposed $23 to $25 per unit range. That means the firm raised around $671 million, and has an initial market capitalization of nearly $6.7 billion. Carlyle will begin trading Thursday on the Nasdaq under ticker symbol CG.
Coming after the bell on Thursday, insurer AIG (Fortune 500) and social media company LinkedIn ( ) are due to report results. AIG is forecast to report a drop in earnings to $1.12 a share, while LinkedIn is expected to earn 9 cents a share.,
Oil for June delivery lost 19 cents to $105.03 a barrel.
Gold futures for June delivery tumbled $10.10 to $1,643.90 an ounce.
Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury edged marginally higher, but yields remained at the 1.92% they hit late Wednesday.
Are you worried about how the 2012 presidential election will impact your investment portfolio? Which candidate do you think will be better for the stock market? E-mail Hibah.Yousuf@turner.com for the chance to be included in an upcoming story.
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