Stock index futures rose on Thursday before data that may provide investors clues about Friday's key U.S. government monthly payrolls report.

The ADP national employment report set to be released at 8:15 a.m. was expected to show U.S. private hiring increased 68,000 in June after a rise of 38,000 in May, which was influenced by temporary factors, such as layoffs from auto shutdowns. It will also give a valuable signal regarding employment in the services sector.

Weekly initial jobless claims due at 8:30 a.m. are expected to have fallen slightly to 420,000 in the week ending July 2 from 428,000 claims the prior week.

It's data that we are trying to figure out where the economy is going. Jobless claims is big, said Kim Caughey Forrest, senior equity research analyst at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.

The pattern of the last couple of weeks has been that any kind of good news has just been grasped on to. People have taken it and ran. The market still is looking for good news, and apparently they are finding some and that is what is driving the market up every day.

S&P 500 futures rose 4 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 31 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 6.75 points.

Employers are expected to have added 90,000 jobs in June in Friday's Labor Department report, according to a poll of economists by Reuters.

Investors may be optimistic about a resolution to the U.S. debt ceiling debate as President Barack Obama and top congressional leaders were aiming for something big when they resume budget talks on Thursday to avert a default soon after weeks of impasse.

However, a small team of U.S. Treasury officials is discussing options to stave off default if Congress fails to raise the country's borrowing limit by an August 2 deadline, sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

Retailers will also be in focus as they release monthly sales data. Top U.S. retailers are on pace to report better-than-expected sales gains for June after bargains lured shoppers contending with high gasoline prices and a wobbly economy.

U.S. warehouse club operator Costco Wholesale Corp posted a higher-than-expected 14 percent rise in June sales at stores open at least a year, helped by sales of higher-priced gasoline and strengthening foreign currencies.

The New York Stock Exchange was expected to take a crucial step toward ceding control to a German company on Thursday, with little opposition expected from investors. NYSE Euronext shareholders were voting on whether to back a $9.4 billion takeover of the company that owns the NYSE by Deutsche Boerse . The deal was expected to get the needed 50 percent majority support from investors, including T. Rowe Price and other big U.S. fund companies.

European shares resumed a rally after a brief dip the previous day, with investors awaiting a rate decision and comments from the European Central Bank after the Bank of England kept interest rates on hold at a record low. <.EU>

The European Central Bank is almost certain to raise interest rates later on Thursday and will show no let-up in its insistence that governments solve Greece's debt crisis without triggering a credit default.

In Asia, China's bank stocks bounced on hopes of a near-term pause in policy tightening.

Transportation stocks were among the standouts in another flat session for U.S. equities on Wednesday, and the sector's rally could be cause for optimism ahead.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Kenneth Barry)