Ahead of the open, the Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a rise of 0.34%, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.47% gain, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated 0.47% increase.
Investor sentiment was hit after data showed that manufacturing activity in the euro area contracted at the fastest pace since June 2009 in May, while service sector activity shrank at the steepest pace in seven months.
A separate report showed that the German Ifo business climate index deteriorated significantly more-than-expected in May, pressured lower by uncertainty in the euro zone.
Investors also remained risk adverse after Wednesday’s summit of European Union leaders shed no new light on how the euro zone nations intend to tackle their debt crisis, including the threat of Greece's possible exit from the monetary union.
Facebook was expected to remain in the spotlight on Thursday, as shareholders sued the social network and its bankers while a trading firm revealed a massive loss on the shares and threatened to seek "remedies". Shares were up 1.37% in pre-market trade.
The social media giant has been making headlines since its highly watched USD16 billion IPO last Friday, amid growing speculation the company was overvalued and following reports Morgan Stanley mad a profit of about USD100 million by stabilizing Facebook’s stock. In the process, the bank is suspected of having withheld important information in favor of some of its major clients.
Also in the Internet sector, Google Inc. shares edged down 0.08% in early trading, after a California jury announced that the company’s Android mobile platform did not infringe Oracle Corp’s patents, putting an end to the battle between the two Silicon Valley giants.
Among earnings, Costco Wholesale was likely to be in focus after posting a higher quarterly profit, on the back of an 8% jump in net sales, sending shares up 0.23% in after hour trade.
In the financial sector, Goldman Sachs fell 0.13% in late trading ahead of the lender’s annual shareholder meeting. Later Thursday, shareholders were to vote on board members, pay, lobbying spending, cumulative voting and a new director.
Elsewhere, Reuters reported that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. dropped out of the race to buy ATV television from Turkey’s Calik Holding. Time Warner and Dubai-based Abraaj Capital remained in the bidding, however, according to the report.
Other stocks in focus included HJ Heinz, due to post fourth-quarter results, and Tiffany, also expected to report quarterly sales, later in the day.
Across the Atlantic, European stock markets were sharply higher. The EURO STOXX 50 surged 1.24%, France’s CAC 40 dove jumped 1.37, Germany's DAX climbed 0.81%, while Britain's FTSE 100 advanced 1.57%.
During the Asian trading session, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 0.35%, while markets in Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index ended flat.
Later in the day, the U.S. was to release official data on core durable goods orders and unemployment claims, followed by a preliminary report on manufacturing activity.