Stock index futures rose on Thursday, following two days of market gains as optimism grew that European policymakers were making progress on concrete plans to shore up stressed banks.

Futures were off their highs after the European Central Bank kept interest rates on hold, a move that was mostly expected but disappointed investors had hoped for a cut.

Market relief was building after European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the EU's top executive body proposed a coordinated recapitalization of banks amid the region's sovereign debt crisis. Officials warned that nothing was finalized.

News continues to move in a positive direction in Europe, said Jack de Gan, chief investment officer at Harbor Advisory Corp in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The core of the problem there relates to banks, so the commentary coming out about recapitalization is very positive. Futures are climbing on the behavior of the banks there.

U.S.-listed shares of Barclays Plc rose 2.3 percent to $10.09 in premarket trading, while HSBC Holding Plc added 2.4 percent to $38.63. The STOXX Europe 600 banking index <.SX7P> gained 3.4 percent, while the FTSEurofirst 300 index <.FTEU3> rose 1.2 percent.

Wall Street has climbed for two straight sessions, and in both the rally picked up steam late in the day, spurring come caution over the late-day volatility. The S&P 500 index has gained 4.1 percent over that period.

S&P 500 futures were up 2.7 points and 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 27 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 11.5 points.

Anxiety over the lingering euro-zone debt crisis has pressured domestic equities and contributed to the S&P briefly dipping into bear market territory earlier this week.

Apple Inc will be in focus a day after co-founder Steve Jobs died at the age of 56. Jobs, the driving force behind the creation of the iPod, iPhone and iPad, stepped down as chief executive in August. Apple shares fell 1.2 percent to $373.73 in premarket trading.

Apple shouldn't have a broader impact beyond its own shares today, de Gan said, I think the reaction we saw when he stepped down is indicative of what we'll see today, down a few percent then a rebound, and within a few days the losses will be erased.

Deal speculation could lift technology companies. Microsoft Corp was considering a bid for Yahoo Inc , Reuters reported, citing sources. A deal between the two fell apart in 2008.

There was also speculation that BlackBerry maker Research in Motion Ltd could be acquired.

Yahoo shares fell 2.5 percent to $15.52 premarket after advancing after the market closed on Wednesday. U.S.-listed shares of RIM rose 2 percent to $24.08 before the bell.

Investors looked ahead to weekly jobless claims, which are seen at 410,000, a rise from 391,000 last week.

On Friday, the government will report non-farm payrolls data, which is expected to show a return to growth after flat growth in August.

U.S. stocks rallied on Wednesday, as investors bid up materials and energy shares on rising commodity prices and poured into beaten-down technology names after days of selling.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)