Wall Street looked set for gains, with the future contracts for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 both up 0.1%. Shares for carmaker Tesla were up almost 20% in premarket trading after a strong quarterly report. That helped traders look past weak figures from tech company Nokia, whose shares were down by almost a fifth.
Several big companies are scheduled to report quarterly results later on Thursday, including American Airlines, Amazon and Visa. While it's still early in this earnings season, traders are trying to gauge how much the U.S. trade war with China and a slowdown in global economic growth is hurting corporate America.
Some of the companies' earnings topped analysts' expectations. Others put traders in a selling mood after warning that the slowing global economy and trade tensions are hitting their profits. "With the US-China trade talks quiet for now, U.S. earnings have driven volatility and market direction this week," Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said in a commentary.
In Europe, the ECB is not expected to change its monetary policies but investors will monitor the news conference of President Mario Draghi, whose tenure at the helm of the bank ends next week. The central bank in September announced a new stimulus program that has caused divisions among policymakers.
A survey of business managers in the eurozone pointed to continued economic weakness at the start of the fourth quarter. The first reading of the so-called PMIs showed growth was close to stalling. A separate measure of manufacturing for Japan hit its lowest level in more than three years and showing contraction in the sector.
Japan's Nikkei 225 still advanced 0.6% to close at 22,750.60 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong climbed 0.7% to 26,748.58. The Shanghai Composite index was flat at 2,940.92 while the Kospi in South Korea reversed early losses, gaining 0.2%, to 2,085.66. India's Sensex lost 0.1% to 39,032.15.
ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. crude oil lost 34 cents to $55.63 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose $1.49 on Wednesday. Brent crude oil, the international standard, gave up 25 cents to $60.92. It gained $1.47 the day before.
The dollar dipped to 108.64 Japanese yen from 108.68 yen on Wednesday. The euro edged down to $1.1127 from $1.1131.