NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures retained mild gains higher after data showed jobless claims fell as expected last week and a wave of earnings and Hewlett-Packard's deal to buy Palm pulled investor focus from Europe's sovereign debt worries.
S&P 500 futures rose 6.9 points to 1,197.0 and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 12 points to 2,018.75. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 32 points.
The Labor Department said Thursday initial claims for unemployment benefits declined for a second week in a row to 448,000 last week. Read how claims are down about 28% from year-ago period.
U.S. stocks moderately rebounded on Wednesday after stronger earnings and the Fed reiterated economic conditions warrant leaving rates low for what's likely to be an extended period. That helped take the sting out of the third sovereign debt downgrade in Europe in two days as the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.5%.
There were a number of earnings reports, particularly in the agrichemicals and household products sector.
Exxon Mobil Corp. /quotes/comstock/13*!xom/quotes/nls/xom (XOM 69.36, +0.17, +0.25%) reported first-quarter profits climbed 38%, but shares of the oil giant fell in premarket trade as its results fell under analysts' expectations. Read more about $6.3 billion gain in earnings.
Of the household goods giants, Unilever /quotes/comstock/13*!ul/quotes/nls/ul (UL 30.40, +1.12, +3.83%) /quotes/comstock/13*!un/quotes/nls/un (UN 30.85, +1.04, +3.49%) rose in premarket trade while Procter & Gamble /quotes/comstock/13*!pg/quotes/nls/pg (PG 61.40, -1.77, -2.80%) fell following their first-quarter reports, and Potash fell 2% after its first-quarter result.
Results from oil giant Exxon Mobil /quotes/comstock/13*!xom/quotes/nls/xom (XOM 69.36, +0.17, +0.25%) is on tap.
Palm /quotes/comstock/15*!palm/quotes/nls/palm (PALM 5.77, +1.14, +24.62%) shares surged after Hewlett-Packard /quotes/comstock/13*!hpq/quotes/nls/hpq (HPQ 52.84, -0.45, -0.84%) announced it will acquire the group in a cash deal worth $1.2 billion, which ends months of speculation about the handset maker. H-P shares weakened 0.1% in premarket trade. See more on deal
European markets rebounded on Thursday, as traders put corporate earnings in focus and moved sovereign debt worries to the backburner, at least for now. Debt markets were also calmer in the wake of recent upheaval.
Better-than-expected earnings from heavyweights across Europe such as Unilever and Siemens lifted stocks in the region, which have been battered in recent days. In Asia, stocks traded mixed with banking and metals stocks hurting the Australian market while strong earnings lifted some technology firms in Taiwan.
The euro /quotes/comstock/21o!x:seurusd (CUR_EURUSD 1.3241, +0.0035, +0.2650%) took back a bit of ground against the dollar, trading up 0.3% at $1.3247, after a strong reading on a sentiment indicator for the euro zone.
Barbara Kollmeyer is an editor for MarketWatch in Madrid. Kate Gibson is a reporter for MarketWatch, based in New York.