* Draghi comments spur hopes for European stimulus
* Dow, S&P 500 hit closing highs on Wednesday
* Whole Foods rallies in premarket after results
* Futures up: Dow 31 pts, S&P 1.5 pt, Nasdaq 7.25 pts
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Nov 6 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures pointed to a slightly higher open on Thursday, indicating that equity markets would extend a rally that has taken them to repeated records on hopes for additional stimulus from Europe.
Futures were flat for much of the premarket session but turned higher following comments from European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, who said the ECB’s governing council was unanimous in its commitment to using additional unconventional measures to support the economy, if needed.
Accommodative policies from central banks around the world have fueled equity gains in recent years. While the U.S. Federal Reserve recently ended its bond-buying stimulus program, the Bank of Japan last week ramped up its own package of incentives.
Separately, jobless claims fell more than expected in the latest week, the second positive read on the U.S. labor market following Wednesday’s ADP report on private sector employment. Both could raise hopes for Friday’s closely watched data on payrolls.
Tesla Motors Inc rose 0.6 percent to $232.45 in heavy premarket volume a day after its third-quarter results beat expectations. The electric car maker, which also said production of its next vehicle would be delayed until the autumn of 2015, was well off its highs of the premarket session.
Whole Foods Market Inc late Wednesday posted earnings that beat expectations, boosted by gains in its market share and new product launches. The stock added 7.5 percent to $43, putting it on track for its biggest one-day advance since May 2013.
The stock has shed 31 percent in 2014, based on its Wednesday closing price, making it one of the 10 worst performers in the S&P 500 this year.
On the downside, Qualcomm Inc slumped 6.9 percent to $71.90 before the bell. The chipmaker late Wednesday said an antitrust investigation and problems collecting royalties could harm its business in China next year. It also disclosed new regulatory investigations in the United States and Europe.
Equities have been strong of late, with the benchmark S&P 500 rising in ten of the past 16 sessions, and only recording modest losses on its down days. The index has not closed with a loss of 1 percent since Oct. 13; it has had five days with a gain of that magnitude since then.
Both the Dow and S&P 500 hit closing highs Wednesday after the Republican Party took control of the Senate in the midterm elections, allaying fears of drawn-out runoff votes and raising hopes for business- and energy-friendly policies.
Futures snapshot at 8:43 a.m.:
* S&P 500 e-minis were up 1.5 points, or 0.07 percent, with 190,238 contracts changing hands.
* Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 7.25 points, or 0.18 percent, in volume of 31,773 contracts.
* Dow e-minis were up 31 points, or 0.18 percent, with 31,452 contracts changing hands. (Editing by Bernadette Baum)