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Stock Futures Rise on Bernanke's Reassurances

Tickers in this article: COST MSFT WAG YUM ^DJI ^GSPC ^IXIC

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures were gaining ground Thursday, pointing to a higher open after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke managed to calm fears about a dramatic slowdown in central bank accommodation. Investors are also reacting to Japan's central bank becoming more bullish about its economy and hopes of stimulus from China's central bank. Economic releases before the market open indicated a rise in unemployment claims as well as a drop in import prices.

Futures for the S&P 500 were adding 16 points, or 17.63 points above fair value, to 1,664.5. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were rising 123 points, or 145.34 points above fair value, to 15,366. Futures for the Nasdaq were increasing 27.5 points, or 29.39 points above fair value, to 3,023.75.

Warehouse retailer Costco was gaining 1.52% to $115.38 after booking same-store sales growth of 6% for June and exceeding the average analyst estimate of a rise of 5.4%.

Microsoft was tacking on 1.21% to $35.12. According to AllThingsD, the software giant may unveil big restructuring changes Thursday to sharpen the company's focus on services and devices in its consumer and business sectors.

Yum! Brands , the owner of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell reported Wednesday evening fiscal second-quarter adjusted earnings that beat estimates by 2 cents at 56 cents a share as revenue declined to $2.9 billion, which was below the average analyst estimate of $2.93 billion. Same-stores sales in key market China tumbled 20% driven by food safety concerns following a bird flu outbreak and allegations of chicken growth hormone injections by its suppliers. The company expects same-store sales at its China Division to continue to recover over the course of the year and be positive by the fourth quarter. Shares were rising more than 1% to $73.36 in premarket trading.

Drug store operator Walgreen has hiked its quarterly dividend by 14.5% to 31.5 cents a share. The dividend is payable Sept. 12 to shareholders of record on Aug. 20.

Major U.S. stock markets closed mixed on Wednesday after minutes from the Federal Reserve's June meeting indicated that several policymakers were warming to the plan of reducing the central bank's asset purchase program.

However, the minutes were followed after the closing bell by a speech by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke who reassured markets that accommodative monetary policy would remain in place for some time regardless of any substantial drop in the unemployment rate. Bernanke emphasized there were no firm plans yet for any imminent hike in interest rates.

"There will not be an automatic increase in interest rate when unemployment hits 6.5%," Bernanke told economists after a speech in Boston.

He also said that with the low inflation environment and the job market still in need of more improvement, it will likely be "well sometime after we hit 6.5% before rates reach any significant level."