U.S. stocks were expected to open little changed on Thursday, with futures for the S&P 500, the Dow Jones and the Nasdaq 100 trading flat to 0.1 percent higher.

Labor Department releases at 1230 GMT (8:30 a.m. ET)first-time claims for jobless benefits for the week ended March 19. Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a total of 383,000 new filings, compared with 385,000 in the prior week.

Oracle Corp is poised to provide fresh evidence of the upward curve of technology spending on Thursday, and to detail its battle plan against emerging competitor Hewlett-Packard Co as the two tech giants vie to lead the datacenter revolution.

Other companies to announce results include Best Buy, ConAgra Foods and Darden Restaurants.

Commerce Department will release at 1230 GMT February durable goods orders data. Economists expect a rise in orders of 1.1 percent, versus a 3.2 percent increase in January.

Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates resigned on Wednesday and warned of grave consequences for the country after parliament rejected his government's latest austerity measures aimed at avoiding a bailout.

The yield on 10- and five-year Portuguese government bonds rose to a new euro-era high on Thursday after Socrates' move, increasing expectations Lisbon will follow Greece and

Ireland to seek international aid. It also threw into disarray a summit of European Union leaders later this week at which they had been expected to take tough decisions to address the region's debt crisis.

Ratings agency Moody's downgraded its debt ratings of 30 Spanish banks by one or more notches, and said the outlook remained weak with no major improvement seen in the foreseeable future. The ratings cut followed the downgrade of Spain sovereign debt rating on March 10 by the agency to Aa2.

Western warplanes hit Libya for a fifth night on Thursday, but so far have failed to stop

Muammar Gaddafi's tanks shelling rebel-held towns or dislodge his armor from a strategic junction in the east.

Stores in Tokyo were running out of bottled water after radiation from a damaged nuclear complex briefly made tap water unsafe for babies, while more nations curbed imports of Japanese food.

Shares in Red Hat Inc and Micron Technology Inc rose 8 percent and 3.7 percent respectively after the bell on Wednesday after the companies announced results.

On Wednesday, the Dow Jones industrial average gained 67.39 points, or 0.56 percent, to 12,086.02. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 3.77 points, or 0.29 percent, to 1,297.54.

The Nasdaq Composite Index climbed 14.43 points, or 0.54 percent, to 2,698.30.

European shares were little changed on Thursday, with gains in heavyweight mining firms outperforming weak banking stocks which were pressured by persistent fears over the euro zone debt crisis.

(Reporting by Atul Prakash; editing by Sophie Walker)