Stock Futures Hold onto Gains After ECB Rate Decision

Wall Street appeared to be in a confident mood on Thursday, with stock futures pointing to at least a positive start for markets, with interest-rate decisions due to be handed down in the U.K. and the euro zone. The only data point is weekly jobless claims.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 53 points, or 0.3%, to 16460, while those for the S&P 500 index added 5.3 points, or 0.3%, to 1837.80. Futures for the Nasdaq-100 index gained 9.5 points, or 0.3%, to 3574.25.

Weekly jobless claims will be released at 8:30 a.m. EST, coming ahead of Friday's all-important nonfarm-payrolls data.

Kansas City Fed President Esther George will deliver a speech on banking and the economy to the Wisconsin Bankers Association in Madison, Wis., at 1:30 p.m. EST.

Futures were pointing to a rebound after Wall Street stocks closed mostly lower on Wednesday. Minutes from the December Federal Open Market Committee meeting showed most officials saw the effects of monthly bond buying were eroding over time. The Fed decided by a 9-to-1 vote on Dec. 18 to trim its asset-purchase program by $10 billion to $75 billion a month, starting in January.

Europe may provide the biggest focus for U.S. investors on Thursday. Both the Bank of England and the European Central Bank are expected to keep monetary policy unchanged, in decisions due at 7 a.m. EST and 7:45 a.m. EST, respectively. The ECB will follow up its announcement with a news conference held by bank President Mario Draghi.

Investors will be looking at the U.K.'s BOE for signs of any change in its forward guidance, given a sharp drop in unemployment in the three months to October. Meanwhile, comments from the ECB's Draghi will be parsed for clues about concerns over inflation, which has been falling, or any easing to come.

Underpinning gains for stock futures, Europe stocks were rising, while Asia put on a mixed performance. Chinese inflation data for December met expectations with a rise of 2.5% on the year.

The euro was firmer ahead of central-bank meetings, while gold prices were steady, and crude was higher. Bank of America Merrill Lynch cut its gold forecast by 11% for 2014 to $1,150 an ounce, citing lack of investor buying as a key concern.

Among stocks in focus, Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. (BBBY) shares could come under pressure in premarket after the retailer reported fiscal third-quarter earnings and trimmed its outlook late Wednesday.

Macy's Inc. (M) could add to late-session gains, after the retailer said it would lay off 2,500 workers and close five underperforming stores.

After-hours trade in shares of T-Mobile US Inc. (TMUS) was halted just before the telecom company released early fourth-quarter customer numbers.