Stocks headed for a higher open on Thursday as investors searched for beaten-down shares, with financial shares set to rebound following reassuring news from Europe on bolstering the banking sector.

The government released more bleak news on the economy, however, as one report showed the number of U.S. workers continuing to claim jobless benefits notched a fresh record in the second week of February, while another showed that U.S. orders for long-lasting manufactured goods fell for a sixth consecutive month to a six-year low in January.

Before the bell, shares of Bank of America climbed 8.7 percent to $5.61, while shares of Citigroup rose more than more than 8 percent to $2 74. JPMorgan rose 6 percent to $23.04.

Britain launched a scheme on Thursday expected to insure more than 500 billion pounds ($712 billion) worth of banks' toxic assets as it aims to spur lending and avert having to fully nationalize top lenders.

The market has been wanting to rally all week ... We're so oversold, to record levels, said Dave Rovelli, managing director of U.S. equity trading at Canaccord Adams in New York, adding: If these numbers weren't so bad I think we would have had a rally, but now I think we'll just have a moderate gain.

U.S. bank stocks have taken a beating in recent weeks on fears that potential nationalization of some big firms would wipe out shareholders, although Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Wednesday said nationalization was not needed, singling out Citigroup as a prime example of a big bank that was not heading into public hands.

S&P 500 futures rose 12.90 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 gained 101 points and Nasdaq 100 futures climbed 14.75 points.

Data on January U.S. new home sales is due at 10 a.m..

(Editing by James Dalgleish)