NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures were signaling a stronger open after the Federal Reserve's pledge to keep interest rates low for a prolonged period and strong earnings from several corporate heavyweights.

Futures for the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

were rising 66 points, or 49.2 points above fair value, at 12,754. Futures for the

S&P 500

were up 6.1 points, or 4.4 points above fair value, at 1326, and futures for the


were up 9.3 points, or 7.6 points above fair value, at 2469.

Stocks closed higher on Wednesday after the Federal Open Market Committee announced its decision to hold interest rates low until late 2014.

Markets continued to receive some cheer from the Federal Reserve's announcement to keep interest rates at very low levels until late 2014 to stimulate the U.S. economy. Although the announcement highlighted ongoing struggles of the U.S. economy, it also indicated that the Fed was willing to step in and help.

In corporate news,


(CAT) - Get Report

, the construction and mining equipment maker, handily beat expectations Thursday. The company's fourth-quarter earnings, excluding items, came in at $2.32 a share, while analysts expected a profit of $1.73 a share. Caterpillar reported record revenue of $17.24 billion, higher than the forecast for $16.05 billion. In the year-earlier fourth quarter, Caterpillar earned $968 million, or $1.47 a share, on revenue of $12.8 billion. For 2012, Caterpillar expects earnings of $9.25 a share, or a range of $68 billion to $72 billion. Shares were jumping 3.2% to $112.49 before the opening bell.

Telco giant


(T) - Get Report

beat estimates as sales of the iPhone soared to a record high. The company gained 717,000 subscribers on monthly contracts, while iPhone activations soared to 7.6 million. Earnings fell to 42 cents a share, slight short of the forecast for 43 cents. However, sales rose 3.6% to $32.5 billion, beating the expectation for $31.95 billion. AT&T withdrew its $39 billion proposal to buy T-Mobile USA in December after regulators said the deal would decrease competition in the sector. Shares were dropping 1.5% to $29.75.

Diversified manufacturer


(MMM) - Get Report

beat Wall Street expectations, reporting earnings of $1.35 a share on revenue of $7.1 billion. The company was expected by analysts to earn $1.31 a share in the fourth quarter on revenue of $7.09 billion. The company also affirmed its 2012 forecast for earnings ranging between $6.25 and $6.50 a share. Shares were up 1% to $87.36.

Lockheed Martin

(LMT) - Get Report

reported that it made $2.09 a share for a total profit of $683 million in the fourth quarter, down from $961 million a year earlier. Revenue came in at $12.21 billion, down 4.3% from a year earlier. Analysts' forecast according to Thomson Reuters was $1.94 a share on revenue of $12.1 billion. The defense contractor has struggled due to budget cuts in Washington, cutting thousands of jobs last year to rein in costs. The company also saw weaker results from its space and electronics systems businesses.

Higher costs caused


(CL) - Get Report

to post an almost 6% drop in net income during the fourth quarter. The company reported earnings of $1.21 a share, or $590 million, missing the $1.29 forecast. Revenue also came in lower at $4.17 billion while analysts were looking for $4.19 billion. Sales in Latin America and India helped offset some of the weakness in the U.S. market. Colgate says it still expects double-digit growth for 2012 although growth will be on a currency-neutral basis.


(NFLX) - Get Report

, the DVD-by-mail and online streaming entertainment content subscription company

handily beat Wall Street's consensus profit view

. Netflix earned 73 cents a share in its fiscal fourth quarter, topping the average analysts' view of 55 cents a share. For the first quarter, Netflix said it expects to post a loss of between 16 cents and 49 cents a share on revenue between $842 million and $877 million. Wall Street analysts polled by Thomson Reuters forecast a loss of 30 cents a share on $847.8 million in revenue.



shares fell in after-hours trading Wednesday despite posting above-consensus fourth-quarter profit. The company reported a non-GAAP profit of $317 million, or $1.29 a share, for the three months ended Dec. 31 on revenue of $1.58 billion. Analysts were expecting earnings of $1.26 a share on revenue of $1.57 billion. Wall Street may be disappointed with the slightness of

SanDisk's beat,

as the company had delivered upside surprises of 12% and 14% in the two preceding quarters. Shares were plunging 8.3% to $48.

Greek debt negotiations resumed Thursday. It was generally believed that a debt swap deal -- which reached an impasse earlier this week -- with private investors of Greece as a precondition to a second bailout for the country would probably be reached eventually. But investors remained jittery from lingering uncertainties especially given that Greece is facing a large-scale bond redemption in March.

The markets will now be listening closely for any developments on the talks from the European Central Bank, after International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde said public investors of Greek debt may now need to take a write-down of their holdings as well.

Charles Dallara, managing director of the Institute of International Finance, the organization representing most of the private creditors, will be holding talks with Greek Prime Minister Lucas Papademos at around 1 p.m. EST in Athens.

London's FTSE was spiking 1.09%, and Germany's DAX was adding 1.35%. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei Average settled 0.39% lower. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index finished up 1.63%.

The Census Bureau said early Thursday that new orders for durable goods rose a better-than-expected 3% in December, above the consensus expectation of a 2% gain, according to a survey of analysts by

Thomson Reuters.

Orders rose by an upwardly revised 4.3% in November.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department said that initial jobless claims rose 21,000 last week to 377,000, but remained below the 400,000 mark. A consistent hold below that level is associated with true improvement in the labor market. Economists surveyed by

Thomson Reuters

thought that claims would increase to 370,000. The reading for the preceding week were revised to 356,000 from 352,000.

A report on new-home sales will be released at 10 a.m. Sales of new single-family homes, to be released by the Census Bureau, probably rose to a 320,000 annual rate in December from a 315,000 clip in November, according to economists.

March oil futures were up 72 cents to $100.12 a barrel, while February gold futures were gaining $17.20 to $1,717.30 an ounce.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was rising 16/32, diluting the yield to 1.944%, while the U.S. dollar index was falling 0.4% to $79.17.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

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Andrea Tse


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