The U.S. stock index futures point to a higher open Thursday as market sentiment was buoyed by the optimism that the economy is strengthening and monetary easing measures will further bolster the economic growth momentum.

The futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 0.36 percent, the futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index were up 0.54 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 index were up 0.61 percent.

Investors are likely to focus on the Labor Department's weekly U.S. jobless claims data to be reported Thursday. The initial jobless claims report, which measures the number of individuals who filed for unemployment insurance for the first time last week, is expected to rise to 370,000 in the week ending Sept. 29, up from 359,000 in the previous week.

The Commerce Department's factory orders report will be released later Thursday. The report, which measures the change in the total value of new purchase orders placed with manufacturers each month, is expected to fall 5.8 percent in August, down from a 2.8 percent increase in July. The report will also include a revision of the durable goods orders data released about a week earlier, as well as new data on non-durable goods order.

On Wednesday, the U.S. markets rose as investor sentiment turned positive by the upward trend of the economy following the encouraging jobs data and services activity index. The Automatic Data Processing released its National Employment Report Wednesday, which rose by 162,000 September, down slightly from a gain of 189,000 in August.

The Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) non-manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index, which was also reported Wednesday, rose to 55.1 in September, up from 53.7 in August. Market sentiment turned positive to note that the U.S. non-manufacturing activity improved in September, alleviating the concerns about the weakening of the world’s largest economy.  

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.09 percent, the S&P 500 Index was up 0.36 percent and the Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 0.49 percent.

European markets rose Thursday ahead of the policy meeting of the European Central Bank amid hopes that Spain would soon seek a bailout to help reduce its borrowing costs. London's FTSE 100 was up 26.27 points, Germany's DAX 30 index rose 51.98 points and France's CAC 40 advanced 9.88 points.

Stock markets in China were closed Thursday for holiday. Most of the Asian markets rose as investor confidence was lifted to know that the U.S. economy is showing encouraging signs of growth revival.