2. -- The economic calendar in the U.S. Thursday includes weekly initial jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. EDT, the Consumer Price Index for April at 8:30 a.m., and housing starts and building permits for April at 8:30 a.m.
3. -- U.S. stocks on Wednesday pushed to fresh highs as investors cheered a stronger-than-expected housing report that offset sobering data on U.S. manufacturing. The S&P 500 rose 0.51% to finish at 1,658.78.
4. -- Cisco (CSCO - Get Report), the biggest maker of computer-networking equipment, posted fiscal third-quarter earnings and revenue on Thursday that topped analysts' estimates. "We are well-positioned in major tech global growth markets," CEO John Chambers said during the company's earnings call. "It was another very solid quarter even with the challenging global macro backdrop." Cisco reported adjusted earnings of 51 cents a share on revenue of $12.2 billion, exceeding the estimates of 49 cents a share on revenue of $12.18 billion. Gross margin held steady at 63% from the same period a year earlier. Chief Financial Officer Frank Calderoni said he expects Cisco to report fourth-quarter earnings of 50 cents to 52 cents a share, with revenue growth of 4% to 7%, factoring in the divestiture of Linksys.
5. -- The world's biggest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores (WMT - Get Report), posted first-quarter profit of $3.78 billion, or $1.14 a share, up from from $3.74 billion, or $1.09 a share, a year earlier. Revenue rose 1% to $113.4 billion. Analysts were expecting first-quarter earnings of $1.15 a share on revenue of $116.29 billion. Wal-Mart said it expects second-quarter earnings of $1.22 to $1.27 a share.
6. -- Novartis (NVS - Get Report), the Swiss pharmaceuticals giant, is considering whether to launch a bid for generic drugmaker Actavis (ACT), The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Meanwhile, Valeant Pharmaceuticals (VRX) and Mylan (MYL) are evaluating their options after approaches they made for Actavis were rebuffed, the newspaper said. Actavis disclosed last week it was in negotiations to buy smaller rival Warner Chilcott (WCRX).
7. -- Warren Buffett's Bershire Hathaway (BRK.A) revealed on Wednesday new investments in Chicago Bridge & Iron (CBI) and Starz (STRZA) on Wednesday, and sold off some of its stake in Mondelez (MDLZ), the snacks maker.
8. -- Kohl's (KSS) posted first-quarter earnings of $147 million, or 66 cents a share, down from a year earlier but ahead of analysts' forecasts.