Wall Street was positioned for a third straight day of gains, with the future contract for the broad S&P 500 index up 0.3% at 2,835. That for the Dow Jones Industrial Average also gained 0.3% to 25,627.
The ECB's policy update later Thursday will be closely watched amid speculation that it could move to boost the economy. Although the bank is expected to maintain its current key policy settings, market expectations for inflation have slid, signaling growing pessimism.
On Tuesday, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank was "closely monitoring" trade developments and would "act as appropriate" to sustain the country's economic expansion. Investors took that as a sign the Fed will likely cut interest rates later this year.
"With the Fed seen succumbing to the aggressive easing priced into the rates space, attention will shift to the European Central Bank today," DBS Group Research strategists Philip Wee and Eugene Leow said in a commentary.
In Asia, benchmarks were mixed as traders kept a close watch on impending U.S. tariffs on Mexico. Trade talks with Beijing remained at a standstill, although a Chinese official said Thursday that the country's Commerce Ministry will release a list of "unreliable" foreign companies in the near future, without giving a specific date. The decision to create the list, announced last week, is widely seen as a response to the U.S. putting Huawei Technologies on a blacklist for alleged theft of intellectual property and evasion of Iran sanctions.
The U.S. and China concluded their 11th round of trade talks last month with no agreement. No further talks have been arranged. Japan's Nikkei 225 index was almost flat at 20,774.04 while the Shanghai Composite index lost 1.2% to 2,827.80 on Thursday. The benchmark in Shenzhen, a smaller, more domestic-oriented market, tumbled 2.1% to 1,463.70. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.3% to 26,965.28 and Australia's S&P ASX 200 advanced 0.4% to 6,383.00. South Korean markets were closed for a holiday.
American and Mexican officials said late Wednesday that progress was being made at immigration talks at the White House, but President Donald Trump tweeted that it was "not nearly enough" to justify delaying tariffs on imports from Mexico.
Trump, who was visiting Ireland, said talks would resume Thursday "with the understanding that, if no agreement is reached, Tariffs at the 5% level will begin on Monday, with monthly increases as per schedule."
The tax on imports from Mexico could gradually increase to 25%, adding to costs for American manufacturers and consumers. It is unclear how the U.S. will gauge that Mexico has successfully stemmed the migrant flow from Central America. The Department of Homeland Security announced separately that border arrests reached 132,887 in May, the highest level in more than a decade.
FIAT CHRYSLER, RENAULT: The surprising collapse of a proposal to merge Fiat Chrysler and Renault weighed on the companies' shares in Europe. Shares in Renault plunged more than 6% to 52.48 euros in early Paris trading, while Fiat Chrysler shares recovered slightly from an early 3% percent drop, down about 1% to 13.19 euros on the Milan Stock Exchange. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles withdrew its merger proposal late Wednesday, citing "political conditions in France."
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude picked up 38 cents to $52.06 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gave up $1.80 to settle at $51.68 a barrel on Wednesday. Brent crude oil, the international standard, added 66 cents to $61.29 per barrel. The contract shed $1.34 to $60.63 per barrel in the previous session.
CURRENCIES: The dollar retreated to 108.22 Japanese yen from 108.46 yen late Wednesday. The euro strengthened to $1.1231 from $1.1221.
Matt Ott in Madrid contributed to this report.