) -- U.S. stock futures were higher early Thursday and European stocks rose led by bank shares.

Stocks in Europe declined the day before after investors were spooked by the huge size of the European Central Bank's €489 billion ($639 billion) loan to 523 banks on the continent.

Asian stocks ended Thursday lower. Japan's Nikkei 225 stock index fell 0.8% to 8,395.16, while China's benchmark dropped 0.2%.

U.S. stocks ended mixed Wednesday

as weakness in technology shares kept the


in negative territory.


Dow Jones Industrial Average

finished 4 points higher, or 0.03%, at 12,107. The

S&P 500

gained 2 points, or 0.2%, to 1244.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq shed 26 points, or 1%, at 2578. Weighing down the index was software giant


(ORCL) - Get Report

, which missed quarterly earnings for the first time in a decade.

The economic calendar in the U.S. Thursday sees the release of weekly initial jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. EST. The consensus estimate calls for a bump back up to 388,000 from last week's 366,000, the lowest level in more than three and a half years.

The calendar also features the third estimate of gross domestic product for the third quarter at 8:30 a.m., and the final University of Michigan consumer sentiment reading for December at 9:55 a.m.



board is

considering a sale

of the bulk of the company's holdings in

Alibaba Group

of China and Yahoo!'s Japanese affiliate back to their majority owners in a transaction that values the stakes at about $17 billion,

The New York Times

reported, citing people briefed on the matter.

The board is expected to meet Thursday to discuss the broad outlines of the offer, the



If directors approve the plan, they may also decide to reject separate investment proposals by Silver Lake and TPG Capital that would have given control of the Internet company to the private-equity firms and Yahoo!'s management, said some of the people.


(TM) - Get Report

is targeting record global sales of 8.48 million vehicles in 2012 and 8.95 million vehicles in 2013, as the automaker bounces back from the March earthquake and tsunami in Japan that crimped production.

Toyota, Japan's No. 1 automaker, fell behind

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report



as the top global car seller in the first half of the year.

Toyota said Thursday global vehicle sales for this year totaled 7.9 million vehicles, down 6% from the previous year.

-- Written by Joseph Woelfel

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Joseph Woelfel

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