U.S. stock futures turned higher Thursday following an unexpected drop in the number of people filing first-time unemployment claims.
A flurry of economic reports came in better than expected Thursday morning. The number of people filing for jobless claims fell 30,000 to 339,000 last week, according to the Labor Department.
The U.S. Census Bureau said the trade deficit fell slightly to $44.2 billion from July to August. The Labor Department also reported import prices rose 1.1% in September while export prices rose 0.8%.
Also adding fuel to the morning's positive trading was a report that Japan's Softbank is in talks to acquire telecom operator Sprint Nextel.
Sprint(S) shares surged 19% in premarket trading following a Wall Street Journal report, citing a person close to the negotiations, that SoftBank(SFTBF) is nearing a deal to buy the third largest U.S. carrier for about $12.8 billion. As of August, SoftBank's mobile arm has more than 30 million subscribers.
Meanwhile in Europe, credit rating agency S&P downgraded Spain late Wednesday, and warned that the latest plan to recapitalize Spanish banks "still lacks predictability."
Joe Heider, managing principal of Rehmann Financial, said many investors were seeing the downgrade as a positive catalyst that could force Spain to finally seek a bailout.
European stocks started off lower, but rebounded as the morning progressed. Britain's FTSE 100 added 0.4%, the DAX in Germany rose 0.7% and France's CAC 40 edged higher 0.3%.
Meanwhile in Asia, South Korea's central bank lowered interest rates for the second time this year. Markets ended the day mixed. The Shanghai Composite slid 0.8% and Japan's Nikkei shed 0.6%, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong ticked up 0.4%.
It will be a relatively quiet day for earnings in the corporate world, with companies including grocery chain Safeway(SWY) scheduled to report. Results are due Friday morning from megabanks JPMorgan(JPM) and Wells Fargo(WFC).
CompaniesShares of Ruby Tuesday(RT) fell nearly 5% after the casual restaurant chain reported quarterly earnings that missed expectations.
Realogy, the parent of Century 21, ERA, Coldwell Banker and Sotheby's International, will start trading on the NYSE under the ticker RLGY after the company priced its IPO at the top end of its estimated range. The IPO is the third largest this year.
Housing market rebound ... finally!
Currenciesandcommodities: The dollar fell versus the euro and British pound, but it gained against the Japanese yen.
Oil for November delivery added 87 cents to $92.12 a barrel.
Gold futures for December delivery rose $5.90 to $1,771.00 an ounce.
Bonds:The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury edged lower, pushing the yield up to 1.70% from 1.69% late Wednesday.