A prior version contained incorrect closing figures for U.S. markets from Wednesday. The story has been corrected.
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures turned higher on Thursday, with investors encouraged by a drop in weekly jobless claims, which helped offset mixed sales from retailers.
Separately, European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet said risks to the economic outlook in the euro zone are balanced. As expected, the central bank left interest rates unchanged. The Bank of England also held rates steady.
Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 42 points at 10,022, while those for the S&P 500 were up 5.1 points to 1,064.40. Futures for the Nasdaq 100 fell 8 points to 1,797.50.
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U.S. stocks saw early gains turn into a rally in the final stretch of trading Wednesday, as earnings hopes lifted financial stocks while energy stocks received a boost after a higher forecast for global oil demand.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 274.66 points, or 2.82%, to close at 10018.28, with all 30 components in the black. The Standard & Poor's 500-stock index added 3.13% to 1060.27. The Nasdaq rose 3.1% to 2,159.47.
Ahead of the open Thursday, the Labor Department said initial jobless claims fell 21,000 to 454,000 in the latest week. Economists polled by MarketWatch expected claims to fall to 458,000.
The ECB's Trichet said in his introductory statement that it was important for lenders to maintain healthy balance sheets, and that the publication of stress tests should be followed by action where needed, he said.
He expects growth at a moderate and uneven pace and said the risks to the economic outlook are balanced, with moderate price stability pressures and contained inflation expectations.
The International Monetary Fund said late Wednesday that the global economy will continue to recover this year and next, despite the turbulence from Europe and worries about sovereign debt. Turbulence in financial markets has "cast a cloud over the outlook," the IMF said. See IMF sees global recovery
Retailers posted mixed June sales on Thursday as a boost from hot-weather-induced buying and a shift in the timing of Memorial Day sales was offset by a string of disappointing economic reports that have hurt consumer confidence and led some to pull back on spending.
One of the first to report, Costco Wholesale, /quotes/comstock/15*!cost/quotes/nls/cost (COST 55.36, +1.07, +1.97%) saw its shares rise fractionally ahead of the open after it said June same-store sales rose 4%, against expectations for a rise of 3.7%.
Limited Brands' /quotes/comstock/13*!ltd/quotes/nls/ltd (LTD 23.47, -0.21, -0.89%) shares gained 6% in electronic trade. It said its June same-store sales rose 6%, nearly doubling expectations for a rise of 3.2%, while Stage Stores /quotes/comstock/13*!ssi/quotes/nls/ssi (SSI 10.42, -0.04, -0.38%) said June same-store sales fell 1.2%, against expectations for a rise of 2%.
Other stocks in focus include U.S. lender Wells Fargo, /quotes/comstock/13*!wfc/quotes/nls/wfc (WFC 26.67, +0.01, +0.04%) up 1.6% after saying it will cut 3,800 jobs and close a business unit that specialized in subprime and other loans issued through its consumer finance stores. See Wells Fargo to cut jobs
European banks rallied a second day, even as some analysts criticized the stress test plans as too soft. There was no detail given on the losses banks would have to be able to withstand on their sovereign debt holdings, but the tests are widely reported to assume a 17% loss on Greek sovereign debt, 3% on Spanish government bonds and no losses on German debt. See full story.
In Asia, stocks rose with the Australian market hitting a fresh seven-day high after a stronger-than-expected June employment report, which lifted the Aussie dollar and the euro.
Crude-oil futures rose $1.18 to $75.25 a barrel, while gold futures fell 10 cents to $1,198.70 an ounce.
Barbara Kollmeyer is an editor for MarketWatch in Madrid. Nick Godt is MarketWatch's markets editor, based in New York.