Stocks were set for a higher open on Thursday after several top U.S. retail chains reported better-than-expected sales in June, and new claims for jobless benefits fell more than forecast.

Investors were set to build on gains in the last session when the S&P 500 index rallied more than 3 percent after a positive earnings outlook from State Street Corp fueled hopes of a stronger earnings season.

Dan Cook, senior market analyst at IG Markets in Chicago, said that momentum from Wednesday would carry over as the market tries to reverse sharp losses this year. But he cautioned that the consumer would remain under pressure.

Despite some of the retail numbers we've seen today, I have to believe that the consumer will remain stressed until the job market improves, he said. I don't think we're going to see real growth for a while because right now there's nothing to support that.

S&P 500 futures rose 4.7 points and were 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 rose 45 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 8 points.

The S&P 500 has fallen nearly 13 percent from a peak in April, with investors concerned about a slowdown in economic growth in the United States, Europe and China.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 21,000 to a seasonally adjusted 454,000 in the week ended July 3, the lowest level since early May, the Labor Department said.

Retailers said June same-store sales were helped by warm weather and promotions tied to the Memorial Day holiday.

Department store operator JC Penney Co shares jumped 7.9 percent to $23.51, and teen apparel retailer Abercrombie & Fitch Co gained 7.5 percent to $35.35 posting June same-store sales data.

Top U.S. warehouse club operator Costco Wholesale Corp's June same-store sales rose 4 percent but just missed Wall Street's expectations. The shares rose 0.9 percent in premarket trade.

(Additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Padraic Cassidy)