Investing.com - U.S. stock futures pointed to a slightly higher open on Thursday, as investors awaited the release of U.S. economic data amid hopes for progress in U.S. budget negotiations.
Ahead of the open, the Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a 0.11% rise, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.14% increase, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.31% gain.
Market players remained focused on developments surrounding the fiscal cliff in the U.S., approximately USD600 billion in automatic tax hikes and spending cuts due to come into effect on January 1.
President Barack Obama was to end his vacation and return to Washington on Thursday in order to take part in talks to avert the crisis ahead of the year-end deadline. Both chambers of Congress are also due to return to work on Thursday.
Without a deal, the U.S. could fall back into recession and drag much of the world down with it.
Auto stocks were expected to be active, as Toyota Motor said it plans to settle a U.S. class-action lawsuit for USD1.1 billion.
The tech sector was also likely to be in focus, after a federal grand jury ruled that Marvell Technology infringed two patents held by Carnegie Mellon University and ordered it to pay USD1.17 billion in damages. Shares in Marvel rallied 2.47% in pre-market trade.
In Internet-related stocks, Amazon.com edged down 0.28% in after hour trade, even as a survey released on Thursday said the company remained the best website for shopping online while JC Penney suffered the largest drop in customer satisfaction of any major online retailer this holiday season. Shares in JC Penney dropped 0.48% in late trading.
Other stocks in focus included pharmaceuticals, amid hopes for a fresh surge in the sector due to post-holiday diets.
In the coming weeks, Arena is set to launch its drug Belviq after receiving authorization, while Orexigen, is preparing to submit for fresh regulatory approval for its experimental medicine Contrave after previous rejections.
Across the Atlantic, European stock markets were higher. The EURO STOXX 50 added 0.28%, France’s CAC 40 climbed 0.50%, Germany's DAX rose 0.30%, while Britain's FTSE 100 edged 0.23% higher.
During the Asian trading session, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index advanced 0.35%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index jumped 0.91%.
Later in the day, the U.S. was to publish its weekly government report on initial jobless claims, as well as data on new home sales and consumer confidence.