) -- U.S. stocks were expected to open higher Thursday, a day after

stocks rose

when the

Federal Reserve

pledged to keep interest rates "exceptionally low" at least through late 2014.

European stocks were edging higher while Asian stocks closed mixed Thursday. South Korea's Kospi rose 0.3%, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index gained 1.6%, but Japan's Nikkei slipped 0.4% to 8,849.47 as a weakening dollar pressured the country's exporters.

U.S. stocks finished higher Wednesday following the rates pledge from the Federal Open Market Committee. The

Dow Jones Industrial Average

rose 83.1 points, or 0.7%, to 12,759. The

S&P 500

gained 11.4 points, or 0.9%, to 1,326. The


gained 31.7 points, or 1.1%, to 2,818.

Stocks moved higher Wednesday after the Fed announced its intent to keep the benchmark federal funds rate at its current low level at least through late 2014, extending an earlier pledge to keep the rate low through mid-2013.

The economic calendar in the U.S. Thursday is crowded. Weekly initial and continuing jobless claims will be released at 8:30 a.m. EST, as will durable goods orders for December. At 10 a.m., new-home sales for December and December's leading indicators are scheduled for release.

The consensus view on initial claims is 375,000, according to



(CAT) - Get Report

, the construction and mining equipment maker, is expected by analysts Thursday to report fourth-quarter profit of $1.73 a share on revenue of $16.05 billion.

In the year-earlier fourth quarter, Caterpillar earned $968 million, or $1.47 a share, on revenue of $12.8 billion.

Diversified manufacturer


(MMM) - Get Report

is expected by analysts to earn $1.31 a share in the fourth quarter on revenue of $7.09 billion.

Telco giant


(T) - Get Report

is seen posting profit in the fourth quarter of 43 cents a share on revenue of $31.95 billion.


(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.

In Japan,


said Thursday it would cut 10,000 jobs because of poor performance of its smartphones as consumers turn to


(AAPL) - Get Report



posted losses for the nine months ended in December, hurt by a strong yen, a price cut for its 3DS handheld device and competition from devices such as the iPhone.

-- Written by Joseph Woelfel

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Joseph Woelfel

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Copyright 2012 Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.