Stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Thursday as encourage results from Morgan Stanley lifted optimism over the battered financial sector.

Investors awaited details about a second rescue package for Greece as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy crafted a common position on a Greek package after hours of talks. A euro-zone summit was set for later in the day in Brussels.

Euro-zone debt problems have been an intermittent drag on U.S. equities in recent weeks as sputtering progress sparked concerns the issue could spread to countries where domestic banks have greater exposure.

Morgan Stanley shares gained 6.5 percent to $23.14 in premarket trading after its second-quarter loss came in narrower than expected.

There is definitely a positive tone to the market as a result of the very welcome news that some of these financials are finding traction in their earnings cycle, said Peter Kenny, managing director at Knight Capital in Jersey City, New Jersey. Definitely a positive tone this morning that I haven't seen in some time.

In the latest economic data, new U.S. claims for unemployment benefits rose more than expected last week, the government said. Equities were little affected by the data. ]

S&P 500 futures rose 8.9 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 added 76 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 11.25 points.

Technology stocks will be in focus a day after a pair of discouraging reports. Dow component Intel Corp trimmed its forecast for 2011 personal computer unit sales, while F5 Networks Inc gave an adjusted fourth-quarter profit outlook that dampened investor expectations.

Intel fell 1.9 percent to $22.55 premarket, while F5 tumbled 6.7 percent to $104.

Results from American Express Co and Nokia Corp beat expectations.

Shares of American Express, a Dow component, edged up 0.3 percent to $52.27 before the bell, while U.S.-listed shares of Nokia rose 2.2 percent to $5.92.

Chinese manufacturing contracted for the first time in a year in July, data showed Thursday, as the government's monetary tightening policy and sluggish global demand weighed on the economy.

Debt issues remained in focus in the United States, with the White House and Congress continuing to negotiate a deal to raise the U.S. debt ceiling before a possible default on August 2.

U.S. stocks closed near unchanged on Wednesday, a day after Wall Street's best rally since March, as the debt wrangling in Washington overshadowed strong earnings from Apple Inc .

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)