Stocks Face Solid Gains Early

Traders hunker down ahead of another major earnings day.
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Bulls held sway in Thursday's premarket session amid positive earnings in the technology sector and relatively low oil prices.

Index futures recently showed the

S&P 500

trading 9 points above fair value, while the Nasdaq 100 was set for a 17-point gain. The 10-year Treasury bond was unchanged in price to yield 4.48%, while the dollar was hovering against the yen and euro.

Oil ticked modestly higher after falling more than $2 a barrel in the previous two sessions. In electronic Nymex trading, March crude was up 27 cents to $66.12 a barrel. The contract slid $1.21 a barrel on Wednesday as an Energy Department report showed a decline in crude inventories offset by builds in gasoline and distillates.

Overseas markets were higher, with London's FTSE 100 rising 0.4% to 5725 and Germany's Xetra DAX gaining 1.5% to 5509. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei rose 1.5% overnight to 15,891, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng was little changed at 15,520.

Stocks fell Wednesday as a crush of earnings and mergers news left investors fatigued. The S&P 500 lost 2 points to 1265. At this level, the broad index has made up just 4 of the 24 points it lost in last Friday's 2% selloff. The

Nasdaq Composite

has retaken 12 of the 54 points it lost in the Friday rout.

Thursday is another huge earnings day, with five

Dow

components set to report, including

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

, which last night saw investor Kirk Kerkorian add 12 million shares to his ownership stake.

Eli Lilly

(LLY) - Get Report

reported a fourth-quarter profit of $700.6 million, or 64 cents a share, on a 6% revenue rise to $3.88 billion. Adjusted earnings of 80 cents a share were 4 cents ahead of estimates.

Nokia's

(NOK) - Get Report

fourth-quarter earnings fell about 1% from a year ago to $1.3 billion, matching estimates despite continuing margin deterioration reflecting sales in developing markets.

To view David Peltier's video take on today's premarket action, click here

.

Futures grabbed inspiration Thursday from a plethora of second-tier technology firms that reported better-than-expected earnings last night, including

Novellus

(NVLS)

, which said reported adjusted fourth-quarter earnings of 20 cents a share, 4 cents ahead of estimates.

Conexant

(CNXT) - Get Report

said first-quarter sales rose 64% from a year ago, while adjusted earnings of 2 cents a share beat estimates by a penny.

Altera

(ALTR) - Get Report

said fourth-quarter earnings rose 20% to $69.7 million, or 19 cents a share, matching estimates. At $281.9 million, roughly matching estimates.

Other companies reporting strong quarters were

Sanmina

(SANM) - Get Report

,

Komag

(KOMG)

and

LSI Logic

(LSI) - Get Report

.