Stock index futures pointed to gains on Friday, rebounding from the previous session's falls, as optimism gathered pace that a key labor market report will confirm the view that the economy was on a solid path to recovery.

Non farm payrolls, due at 1230 GMT, is forecast to rise by 190,000 in March, with some investors expecting a gain of more than 200,000 as the report comes in the wake of recent employment data which suggests the outlook for the crucial labor market was improving.

The unemployment rate is seen unchanged at 8.9 percent.

Shares on Wall Street ended lower on Thursday but recorded strong gains for the first quarter, with the Dow <.DJI> up 6.4 percent, the S&P's 500 <.SPX> up 5.4 percent and the Nasdaq <.IXIC> up 4.8 percent in the three months to end-March.

Investors are betting that a strong payrolls number could help the S&P 500 break above 1,330, a level that it has been unable to breach despite several attempts in the past month.

Other major macroeconomic data scheduled for Friday includes the U.S. ISM numbers, due at 10 a.m. The release follows that of Chinese factory data overnight which showed production rose while cost inflation slowed, easing concerns about monetary tightening.

Hawkish comments from the Federal Reserve were on investors' radar screens, as the dollar was lifted after Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Narayana Kocherlakota said in an interview in the Wall Street Journal that the Fed could raise rates by the end of 2011, far sooner than expected by financial markets.

In company news, the wireless megamerger of AT&T Inc and T-Mobile will be a tough sell, said the senior Democrat at the U.S. Federal Communications Commission in an interview with C-SPAN provided to reporters.

Boeing received at least $5.3 billion of illegal U.S. subsidies, the World Trade Organization said on Thursday in a dispute that shows no signs of an end to years of inconclusive wrangling.

Goldman Sachs Group Inc borrowed five times from the U.S. Federal Reserve's discount window since the start of the financial crisis, despite a senior executive's testimony last year that the bank had used it only once.

Toyota Motor Corp's <7203.T> U.S. sales arm said it will raise retail prices for its models sold in the U.S. market to counter Japanese yen gains on the U.S. dollar.

In Europe, the pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 <.FTEU3> index of top shares was up 0.6 percent at 1,131.92 points.

(Reporting by Harpreet Bhal; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)