U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Wall Street on Thursday, following a four-day losing streak.

At 5:04 a.m. EDT, futures for the S&P 500 were up 0.6 percent, Dow Jones futures were up 0.4 percent and Nasdaq 100 futures were up 0.6 percent.

The key back-to-school selling season comes into focus as a number of U.S. retailers report monthly sales.

U.S. crude oil prices rose above $69 a barrel on Thursday, gaining ground in the wake of data issued the previous day showing U.S. gasoline stocks fell sharply, boosting expectations for a demand revival in the United States.

Japan's Nikkei average <.N225> dropped 0.6 percent on Thursday as exporters fell on worries about the U.S. economy after dismal jobs data.

Chinese stocks <.SSEC> gained 4.8 percent, with mining shares strong, after a top regulator assured investors that the country's market was healthy, fuelling hopes of government policy support and technically driven buying after the market's recent slump.

European stocks were up in morning trade after a three-session losing streak, as investors braced for the European Central Bank's decision on interest rates and comments on the outlook for the economy.

The ECB is expected to keep interest rates at 1.0 percent, and President Jean-Claude Trichet is likely to preach caution on the growing hype of a speedy euro zone economic rebound from recession.

On the M&A front, Japan's No.7 drugmaker by revenues Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma Co Ltd <4506.T> agreed on Thursday to buy U.S. drugmaker Sepracor Inc for $2.6 billion, giving the Japanese firm a big, local sales force in the world's largest drugs market.

Cisco Systems Inc and EMC Corp are in talks to create a new joint venture to provide technology services, the Wall Street Journal said, citing people briefed on the plan.

On the macro front, investors will keep an eye on weekly initial jobless claims, due at 1230 GMT, as well as on ISM non-manufacturing data for August, due at 1400 GMT.

U.S. stocks retreated on Wednesday after a labor market report showed more private sector job losses in August than forecast, rattling investors ahead of Friday's key monthly jobs data from the U.S. Labor Department.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> closed down 29.93 points, or 0.32 percent, at 9,280.67. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> lost 3.29 points, or 0.33 percent, to 994.75. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> fell 1.82 points, or 0.09 percent, to 1,967.07.

The current mean estimate of economists polled by Reuters is for a loss of 225,000 jobs in Friday's nonfarm payrolls report for August.

(Reporting by Blaise Robinson; Editing by Hans Peters)