U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Thursday as upbeat data this week showed signs of life in the economy, as investors awaited reports on gross domestic product and the labor market.

Investors will also be watching for testimony by U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, in which he is expected to outline proposals to Congress for tough new financial rules as part of efforts to stabilize the economy and curb risk-taking.

Government data due at 8.30 a.m. (1230 GMT) is expected to show final U.S. gross domestic product for the fourth quarter shrank by a downwardly revised 6.5 percent, according to a Reuters survey.

Arthur Hogan, chief market analyst at Jefferies & Co in Boston, said he expected the reading to represent the low point of the cycle and that the data for the next three quarters, though not good, should start to look less dire.

Bank shares added to Wednesday's late rally in trading before the bell, with JPMorgan up 1.2 percent at $28.91 and Bank of America rising 2.2 percent to $7.87.

Although we're getting negative news, the velocity of negative news is decreasing, said Hogan.

S&P 500 futures rose 11.20 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 climbed 86 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 14 points.

The broad S&P has rallied about 20 percent off the 12-year closing low seen on March 9, strengthened by efforts by policy markers to pull the economy out of recession and positive comments by some major banks.

Geithner is expected to propose creating a powerful systemic risk regulator with authority to look deep into non-bank financial firms such as hedge funds and private equity firms, officials said.

On Wednesday stocks rallied late in the day as unexpectedly strong February new home sales and durable goods orders data fueled hopes the economy is on the mend, offsetting concerns the United States may struggle to fund plans to pull it out of recession after poor demand in a Treasury debt auction.

Atlanta Federal Reserve President Dennis Lockhart cautioned on Thursday, however, that one month of improved data does not add up to an economic recovery and said the U.S. recession will last for at least a few more months.

(Editing by James Dalgleish)