Stocks headed for a higher open on Thursday as a surprise profit from Alcoa Inc boosted the start of the earnings season and surging commodity prices underpinned a global equity advance.

Reassuring monthly sales from major U.S. retailers, including Target Corp and Macy's Inc added to the positive tone, along with a report the number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless insurance fell more than expected to a nine-month low last week.

Here we are going into the earnings, and we love to hear all this better than expected, said Frank Lesh, futures analyst and broker at FuturePath Trading LLC in Chicago. Claims were good. It's the right direction.

S&P 500 futures rose 9.3 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures gained 73 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 12.50 points.

Shares of Alcoa Inc shot up 6.1 percent to $15.07, a day after the Dow component posted its first profit after three consecutive quarterly losses on cost savings and higher aluminum prices.

In other earnings news, PepsiCo Inc
reported a stronger-than-expected quarterly profit on higher volume in snacks and beverages, sending its shares up 1 percent to $61.81 before the bell.

The rise in index futures suggested Wall Street would open up nearly 1 percent, following gains in Asian stocks overnight and a rise of about 1 percent in European issues.

Gold prices rallied to a record for a third successive session on persistent weakness in the U.S. dollar. Spot gold touched a record of $1,058.20 an ounce and lifted silver and palladium.

(Reporting by Ellis Mnyandu; additional reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)