Stocks: Investors looking for earnings bounce

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Investors are gearing up for another influx of earnings reports Thursday following a better-than-expected report on jobless claims.

U.S. stock futures were slightly higher.

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

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.

UPS (UPS) reported a jump in quarterly earnings.

Safeway (SWY) is also due to report before the market opens.

Shares of Zynga (ZNGA) tumbled in premarket trading, a day after the online gaming company issued a gloomy forecast.

Amazon (AMZN) and Starbucks (SBUX) report their results after the close.

Fear & Greed Index: Idling in neutral

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.

General Electric (GE) edged up in premarket trading, a day after finance subsidiary GE Capital decided to nix lending programs for gun purchases in the wake of last year's Newtown massacre.

U.S. stocks ended mixed Wednesday.

European markets were weak in afternoon trading. The British economy dodged a triple-dip recession as GDP rose by 0.3%, according to preliminary estimates.

Related: Austerity debate rages in Europe

"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."

Spanish unemployment rose to 27.2%, a record. European car sales sunk to their lowest level since the mid-1990s.

Asian markets also ended mixed, with Hong Kong's Hang Seng gaining nearly 1% and Japan's Nikkei 0.6%. The Shanghai Composite finished 0.9% weaker.

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