U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open Thursday ahead of the publication of the Labor Department's weekly jobless claims data and Producer Price Index (PPI).

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 0.26 percent, futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index were up 0.21 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index were up 0.29 percent.

The Department of Labor is due to report the initial jobless claims report, which measures the number of individuals who filed for unemployment insurance for the first time last week, at 8:30 a.m. EDT. Economists forecast initial jobless claims to be 350,000 for the week ending March 9, up from 340,000 in the previous week.

Investors are also waiting for the Deparment of Labor's Producer Price Index, which measures the change in the price of goods sold by manufacturers, which is due to be published before the opening bell. The index, a leading indicator of consumer price inflation, is expected to rise 0.8 percent in February, boosted by higher gasoline prices. The core PPI, excluding food and energy, is expected to increase 0.2 percent.

“Sentiment should remain at a healthy level supported by growing optimism on U.S. economic growth, though Europe could likely be a potential drag ahead, with the newly elected Italian Parliament holding its first session on Friday,” according to a  note from Credit Agricole.

U.S. stock markets advanced on Wednesday with the Dow Jones Industrial Average extending its record high as upbeat February retail sales data boosted sentiment. Data released by the U.S. Commerce Department showed that retail sales increased in February to its hightest level in five months, reinforcing the view that the world’s largest economy's recovery is gaining steam.

Retails sales, which are used to measure changes in the total value of inflation-adjusted sales at the retail level, surged 1.1 percent in February compared with a revised 0.2 percent gain in January. The data exceeded analysts’ estimate of a 0.6 percent gain. Meanwhile, core retail sales excluding autos grew 1 percent in February, compared to the 0.4 percent rise in the prior month.

European stock markets advanced in early trading as European Union leaders begin a two-day summit in Brussels. The region's austerity and labor market issues are set to dominate the first EU leaders meeting since the inconclusive Italian election. Germany's DAX30 gained 0.74 percent, France's CAC 40 advanced 0.61 percent and London's FTSE 100 rose 0.35 percent.

Asian stock markets mostly ended with gains on Thursday after declining in the last two sessions. Meanwhile, the Bank of Korea (BOK) left its key policy rates unchanged for the fifth straight month in line with analysts’ expectations. Japan’s Nikkei surged 1.16 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.28 percent, while India’s BSE Sensex gained 0.92 percent and South Korea’s KOSPI Composite rose 0.12 percent.