- U.S. stock futures pointed to a higher open on Friday, as investors awaited the release of U.S. economic reports later in the day, while comments by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Thursday supported equity markets.

Ahead of the open, the Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a 0.29% rise, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.31% gain, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.34% increase.

Markets were jittery after the Department of Labor on Thursday said the number of people filing continuing unemployment claims rose back over three million to 3.03 million, up from 2.85 million, in the week to January 4, while initial jobless claims fell by 2,000 to a six-week low of 326,000.

U.S. employment data is being closely watched by investors since the latest nonfarm payrolls report showed that the economy added just 74,000 news jobs last month, well below expectations for 196,000.

Separately, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said the central bank should be giving the economy the stimulus it needs despite worries that quantitative easing may destabilize the financial system.

The tech sector was expected to be active, after China Mobile launched its long-awaited sale of iPhones on Friday, sending Apple shares edging up only 0.08% in pre-market trade. China Mobile has the world''s biggest network of cell phone users.

Separately, Qualcomm Inc. was up 0.11% in extended trade amid reports Chief Executive Officer Paul Jacobs made USD20.4 million in 2013, his last full year of leading the maker of chips for mobile phones.

Chief Operating Officer Steve Mollenkopf is set to take over as CEO on March 4.

In earnings news, Intel forecast first-quarter revenue that may fall short of market estimates, sending shares down 4.48% pre-market.

American Express slid 0.43% in late trading, even after saying that fourth-quarter profit doubled thanks to rising consumer spending.

Other stocks likely to be in focus included General Electric, Morgan Stanley and Bank of New York Mellon, scheduled to report fourth-quarter results later in the day.

Across the Atlantic, European stock markets were higher. The EURO STOXX 50 rose 0.36%, France’s CAC 40 gained 0.38%, Germany''s DAX advanced 0.65%, while Britain''s FTSE 100 added 0.28%.

During the Asian trading session, Hong Kong''s Hang Seng Index climbed 0.64%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index eased 0.08%.

Later in the day, the U.S. was to release the preliminary reading of the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index, as well as data on building permits, housing starts and industrial production.

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