Shares of Countrywide jumped more than 19 percent to $15.60 before the bell. The largest U.S. mortgage lender said the housing slump led to a $1.2 billion third-quarter loss, but it expects to report a profit this quarter as it slashes jobs and stabilizes its operations.
On Wednesday, Merrill Lynch & Co. reported making huge write-downs for bad investments related to risky subprime mortgages, joining other financial firms such as Citigroup Inc and Washington Mutual Inc.
Shares of Microsoft rose 13.3 percent at $36.25 before the bell, a day after it lifted full-year forecasts and posted quarterly profit that beat analysts' expectations.
S&P 500 futures were up 9.40 points and were above fair value, a mathematical formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract.
Dow Jones industrial average futures gained 59 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 15 points.
Merrill's stock also rose before the opening bell after news Chief Executive Stan O'Neal met with Wachovia Corp., the fourth-largest U.S. bank, about a merger. Shares were up 1.8 percent at $61.99 after the report in The New York Times.