Forexpros – U.S. stock futures were higher on Thursday, but remained under pressure after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke dented expectations for further stimulus measures and amid sustained fears of a credit crunch in the euro zone.

Ahead of the open, the Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a rise of 0.28%, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.25% increase, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.43% gain.

In testimony to Congress on Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke dampened expectations for a third round of monetary easing after he acknowledged the recent improvement in the labor market and said that higher oil prices could push up inflation.

However, Bernanke also said the central bank was prepared to adjust the balance sheet “as appropriate” to promote the economic recovery.

Meanwhile, market sentiment remained fragile as concerns over the effectiveness of the European Central Bank’s liquidity boosting operation on Wednesday weighed.

Financial stocks were expected to be active as Bank of America was planning to introduce a monthly fee for customers holding checking accounts unless they agree to bank online, buy more products or maintain certain balances, according to the Wall Street Journal. Shares in Bank of America jumped 1% in premarket trade while Citigroup declined 0.21%.

Car makers were also to be in focus after General Motors saw shares slip 0.35% in after hour trade after the company accepted to form a global alliance with PSA Peugeot Citroen targeting a cut in annual costs of at least USD2 billion without plant closures or job cuts in Europe.

In energy stocks, Kinder Morgan was slated to move after it was allowed to proceed with a USD21.1 billion takeover of El Paso Corp. by a judge who rejected claims that Goldman Sachs Group’s conflict of interest in the deal warranted blocking a shareholder vote.

Elsewhere, shares in News Corp also retreated 0.15% in after hour trade after James Murdoch resigned as executive chairman of News International on Wednesday, raising new doubts he can succeed his father Rupert as CEO of News Corp in the wake of a phone hacking scandal at the unit he oversaw.

Other stocks in focus included Kroger, the biggest U.S. supermarket chain, due to report quarterly results later in the day.

Across the Atlantic, European stock markets were higher. The EURO STOXX 50 climbed 0.83%, France’s CAC 40 rose 0.75%, Germany’s DAX advanced 0.75%, while Britain’s FTSE 100 added 0.65%.

During the Asian trading session, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index tumbled 1.35%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index dipped 0.2%.

Later in the day, the U.S. was to release government data on unemployment claims, while the Institute for Supply Management was to produce a report on manufacturing activity. In addition, Ben Bernanke was due to testify for a second day before Congress.