NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stock futures were extending gains as investors celebrated a substantial dip in jobless claims data and earnings results from Bank of America (BAC) - Get Report and Morgan Stanley (MS) - Get Report.

Futures for the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

were rising 41 points, or 19 points above fair value, at 12,545. Futures for the

S&P 500

were rising 5.1 points, or 3.4 points above fair value, at 1,307. Futures for the


were gaining 11.5 points, or 9.3 points above fair value, to 2,432.

Bank of America

(BAC) - Get Report

, which lost its status as the U.S.'s largest lender by assets to

JPMorgan Chase

(JPM) - Get Report

last quarter, started off the morning by reporting that it earned $2 billion, or 15 cents a share, in the fourth quarter, meeting analysts' expectations, according to

Thomson Reuters


Morgan Stanley

(MS) - Get Report

posted a fourth-quarter loss of 14 cents a share. The lender was expected by analysts to post a fourth-quarter loss of 58 cents.

Sentiment was lifted further after a Labor Department report showed the number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level since April 2008. Initial jobless claims dropped 50,000 to to 352,000 from a revised 402,000. Economists expected claims to fall to 383,000.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said consumer prices were unchanged in December. Analysts expected the consumer price index to climb 0.1%, according to estimates from

Housing starts fell 4.1% to an adjusted annual rate of 657,000 units in December from a revised 680,000 in November, according to a Census Bureau report. Analysts expected housing starts to fall to 675,000 units. Building permits fell 0.1% to 679,000 from a revised 680,000 in the previous month.

Vote: Where will oil prices finish in 2012?

France inspired investor confidence after successfully auctioning off 7.965 billion euros of bills in its first longer-term bond auction since Standard & Poor's cut the country's credit rating down a notch to AA on Jan. 13. France, like the U.S., proved that ratings companies have little effect on its bond's values as yields fell. Spain also tested investors as it, too, successfully sold longer-term notes at auctions for the first time since S&P slashed its rating by two levels to A. Spanish yields fell by1.572% on 10-year notes, while inching higher on bonds maturing in 2016.

However, optimism from successful bond auctions in Spain and France was dampened by concerns surrounding Greece's continued talks with private investors. Greece must come to an agreement on debt write-downs before a March 20 bond payment that would force the country into a disorderly default without a second bailout.

Germany's DAX was up 0.88% while London's FTSE was up 0.55%. Japan's Nikkei Average settled 1% higher and Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 1.3%.

Thursday is also a busy day for fourth-quarter corporate earnings, with 81 companies scheduled to report results. After the close, West Coast technology giants


(GOOG) - Get Report



(INTC) - Get Report



(MSFT) - Get Report

will wrap up the day with earnings reports.

Analysts believe these tech companies can shake off the debt fears in Europe. Google is expected by analysts to post quarterly earnings of 96 cents a share, and Intel is expected to earn 61 cents, while Microsoft is seen earnings 76 cents.

In other corporate news,

Eastman Kodak


, the 131-year-old photo film maker, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The Rochester, New York-based company said it obtained a $950 million, 18-month credit facility from


to keep it in business.


(EBAY) - Get Report

, the online auctioneer,

topped analysts' quarterly earnings estimates

late Wednesday. During the quarter, the online giant earned 60 cents a share on revenue of $3.4 billion. Wall Street was calling for a profit of 57 cents on revenue of $3.32 billion.

Vote: Where will gold prices finish in 2012?

March oil futures were rising $1.05 to $101.81 a barrel after the American Petroleum Institute reported late Wednesday that U.S. crude oil inventories unexpectedly dropped last week. February gold futures were climbing $1 to $1,660.90 an ounce.

The dollar index was dropping 0.3%. The benchmark 10-year Treasury was falling 6/32, increasing the yield to 1.923%.

-- Written by Kaitlyn Kiernan in New York