Investors will be on the lookout for any news out of a summit of European leaders convened to discuss closer ties between eurozone countries. Leaders are meeting Thursday and Friday to discuss proposed reforms of the banking sector and more integrated budget policies.
Meanwhile, it's more bad news for China after the Chinese government reported growth slowed last quarter to its lowest level since early 2009.
China's economy rose at a 7.4% rate in the third quarter compared to the previous year, the National Bureau of Statistics said Wednesday. China's economy had grown at a 7.6% rate in the prior quarter.
In the United States, investors have more earnings results to sort through Thursday.
Morgan Stanley (Fortune 500) reported earnings before the opening bell that topped analysts' forecasts, posting , earnings per share of 28 cents and revenue of $7.6 billion -- compared to the 24 cents a share and $6.4 billion in revenue that had been expected. Shares of the bank edged higher following the news.
Nokia ( logged a loss in the third-quarter, but the results were better than expected. Still, the stock fell more than 2% in volatile pre-market trading. Meanwhile, )Verizon (Fortune 500) posted earnings that met expectations, and shares rose slightly. ,
Shares of Travelers Cos. (Fortune 500) jumped more than 2% after the insurer reported that income more than doubled in the quarter, beating expectations, thanks to lower losses from natural disasters. ,
Overall, S&P Capital IQ projects that third-quarter earnings for the S&P 500 will decline 0.7% from a year ago, the weakest showing in three years.
On the economic front, a report on initial jobless claims showed that the number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits jumped by 46,000 to 388,000 last week. That's higher than the 360,000 claims economists surveyed by Briefing.com had expected.
Then at 10 a.m. ET, the Philadelphia branch of the Federal Reserve will release the October edition of its business outlook survey.
U.S. stocks closed little changed Wednesday, as investors took in new housing data and another batch of corporate earnings.
Oil for November delivery fell 34 cents to $91.78 a barrel.
Gold futures for December delivery slid $10.90 to $1,742.10 an ounce.
Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury edged higher, pushing the yield down to 1.80% from 1.81% late Wednesday.
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