But with few economic indicators due Friday, trading volume will likely be light, and there could be some profit-taking ahead of the weekend.
Overseas stock markets were also higher, partly on the back of the optimism fueled by signs of stabilization in U.S. consumer spending and on hopes for Greece.
Among early gainers, Exxon Mobil Corp shares rose 0.4 percent to $68.14 before the bell, while Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold Inc climbed 0.8 percent to $86.70.
Shares of J. C. Penney Co Inc , a major U.S. retailer, jumped 3.3 percent to $32.01 premarket after Goldman Sachs added the stock to a list of recommended buys.
The U.S. dollar index <.DXY> slipped 0.1 percent while the euro rose broadly on speculation Greece may soon grab a lifeline from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund to help repay its ballooning debt. Worries about Greece have raised concerns about the stability of the euro.
Greece, that's the drama that's been going on for weeks. The market assumes that the situation at this point will be resolved, said Rick Meckler, president of LibertyView Capital Management in New York.
But I think the most dominating aspect of this market is the continued low interest rates, which leaves investors few choices about where to go to earn a return and gives them confidence that staying in the stock market is a better alternative than anything else.
S&P 500 futures rose 2.60 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 19 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 5 points.
Gold rose to three-month highs in Europe, while U.S. front-month crude added 0.7 percent.
U.S. stocks gained Thursday after surprisingly strong March retail sales boosted optimism the economic recovery is on track.
The benchmark S&P 500 <.SPX> has rallied 75.4 percent since hitting bottom in March 2009. Recently it has come up against some formidable resistance in the 1,180 area, while the Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> faces key resistance at the 11,000 level -- a point it last surpassed in September 2008.
Heading into Friday's session, the S&P 500 will have to hold key support around the 1,175 level to keep the uptrend line from the February 5 intermediate low intact, according to Reuters data. It closed at 1,186.44 on Thursday.
(Reporting by Ellis Mnyandu; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)