The U.S. government announced that initial jobless claims dropped to 339,000 in the latest. That is significantly lower than the 351,000 claims that were forecast by a consensus of economists surveyed by Briefing.com.
Exxon Mobil(XOM)announced that its first-quarter profit edged up 1% to $9.5 billion.
Dow Chemical(DOW) reported better-than-expected earnings, fueled by sales of agricultural products. But revenue fell short of forecasts.
In other corporate news, Verizon Communications(VZ) may draw attention after Reuters reported the company had hired advisers to look at a possible $100 billion bid to take full control of Verizon Wireless from Vodafone Group(VOD). Vodafone declined to comment.
"With the eurozone recession deepening and global climate looking gloomy in general, I don't think many people are expecting UK growth to kick on from here," said Caxton FX analyst Richard Driver. "Major risks still hang over the UK economy but this certainly brightens the outlook for sterling a little."