Stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Thursday after a sharp rise in private-sector jobs raised expectations of a solid U.S. employment report for June.

Thursday's data from payrolls processor ADP showed U.S. private hiring increased by 157,000 in June, well above the expected 68,000, bouncing back from a surprise slump the month before.

In a separate report, new claims for unemployment benefits fell slightly more than expected last week, although distortions due to a holiday and other factors made interpretation difficult.

Still, stock futures climbed after the reports on speculation Friday's non-farm payrolls report from the Labor Department would benefit stocks.

They are absolutely going to look at ADP and they are going to use it as another reason to buy the market -- clearly people are going to say tomorrow's (jobs) number is going to be even better because this is only private payrolls, said Ken Polcari, managing director at ICAP Equities in New York.

We have seen with this market that it has ignored everything negative. They have taken anything they can sink their teeth into that is slightly positive. Today they are just taking this (ADP) number and they are running with it.

S&P 500 futures rose 12.6 points and were well 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 gained 92 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 22.75 points.

Employers are expected to have added 90,000 jobs in June in Friday's Labor Department report, according to a poll of economists by Reuters.

Retailers will also be in focus as they release monthly sales data. Top U.S. retailers are on pace to report better-than-expected sales gains for June after bargains lured shoppers contending with high gasoline prices and a wobbly economy.

Target Corp shares jumped 6.8 percent to $51.75 and Macy's Inc added 3.2 percent to $29.80 in premarket trade.

Investors may be optimistic about a resolution to the U.S. debt ceiling debate as President Barack Obama and top congressional leaders were aiming for something big when they resume budget talks on Thursday to avert a default soon after weeks of impasse.

However, a small team of U.S. Treasury officials is discussing options to stave off default if Congress fails to raise the country's borrowing limit by an August 2 deadline, sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Kenneth Barry)