Investing.com - U.S. stock futures pointed to a moderately lower open on Thursday, as investors eyed the release of U.S. jobless claims data later in the day, while markets were jittery ahead of the European Central Bank's policy statement.
Later Thursday, the ECB was widely expected to keep rates unchanged at 0.75% later Thursday, while a post-policy meeting press conference by President Mario Draghi would be closely watched for indications on the future direction of monetary policy.
Sentiment remained supported by recent signs of progress in dealing with the debt crisis in the region, although concerns over the weak outlook for the euro zone economy persisted.
Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama said a deal to avert the so-called fiscal cliff of year-end tax hikes and spending cuts was possible in "about a week" if Republicans compromise on taxes.
Energy-linked stocks were expected to be active, after Chevron added USD15 billion to the cost of the Gorgon liquefied natural gas export complex, as the U.S. oil company's largest single development joins a growing list of Australian LNG projects to run over budget.
The tech sector was also likely to be in focus, as Apple's rank in China's smartphone market, which is set to become the world's largest this year, fell to number 6 in the third quarter as it faces tougher competition from Chinese brands. Apple shares were down 0.29% in pre-market trade.
Separately, Research In Motion surged 3.85% in early trading, after the company outlined on Thursday a step-by-step program to help its large base of enterprise clients transition across to its soon to be launched new BlackBerry 10 platform.
Elsewhere, Starbucks jumped 1.10% pre-market after saying on Wednesday that it plans to increase the number of its cafes in the Americas by more than 20% by opening more than 3,000 new shops there in the next five years.
The company added that it is seeking to rely on tea and juice as much as coffee.
Other stocks in focus included Lululemon Athletica and Smithfield Foods, due to report quarterly results shortly after the opening bell.
Across the Atlantic, European stock markets were higher. The EURO STOXX 50 added 0.19%, France’s CAC 40 inched up 0.09%, Germany's DAX climbed 0.85%, while Britain's FTSE 100 eased up 0.07%.
During the Asian trading session, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index slipped 0.09%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index climbed 0.81%.
Later in the day, the U.S. was to publish the weekly government report on initial jobless claims.