Stock index futures rose on Thursday as investors bet that Wall Street might hold off from hitting fresh bear-market lows as a search for beaten-down shares provides some support.

In Europe, Nestle , the world's biggest food maker, provided rare welcome news on the earnings front when it reported strong underlying 2008 sales growth of 8.3 percent and, unlike some rivals, was cautiously upbeat for 2009.

A rebound in oil prices was likely to offer the market some support and underpin the energy sector, with U.S. front-month crude up 3.6 percent, or $1.26, at $35.85 a barrel.

Even after a disappointing outlook from technology bellwether Hewlett-Packard Co investors held out hope that benchmark indexes would find some support following their descent to three-month lows this week.

There's some early-morning speculation that we would not break to new lows, said Andre Bakhos, president of Princeton Financial Group in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

There's hope that the November lows could hold despite the fact that as of late, what appears to be good news -- the stimulus and the mortgage plan -- has not been well received.

S&P 500 futures rose 10.30 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 climbed 67 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures gained 7.75 points.

But even with the bounce, there was caution ahead of a weekly report on jobless claims that could signal again that the labor market continues to deteriorate as the recession deepens. That data is due at 8.30 a.m. along with a report on the January Producer Price Index.

A survey of mid-Atlantic manufacturing activity is due at 10 a.m..

After the bell on Wednesday Hewlett-Packard cut its full-year outlook after quarterly revenue missed expectations on weak sales of printers, personal computers and servers. The stock, a Dow component, was down 3.3 percent at $32.90 before the opening bell.

In other earnings news, Newmont Mining posted a better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit before the bell on Thursday as strong gold prices helped offset a sharp decline in copper demand and prices.

Most U.S. stocks closed marginally lower on Wednesday as U.S. President Barack Obama's $275 billion plan to prop up the housing market failed to stem worries about the economy, and bleak housing data highlighted the deepening recession.

A search for bargains, particularly in the technology sector, shielded the market from a broad decline, however.

(Editing by James Dalgleish)