Stock index futures rose on Thursday following another string of stronger-than-expected quarterly corporate profits, including from Visa Inc , and fresh indications that the global economic downturn is easing.

Goldman Sachs raised its recommendation on General Electric Co to buy, saying comments made by the chairman of a key congressional committee suggests a decreased chance of a break up of the finance arm of the diversified industrial manufacturer.

U.S. House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank in an interview with Bloomberg late on Wednesday suggested there was broadening support for regulatory reform that would not mandate the separation of GE Capital, Goldman analysts said.

GE shares rose 4.4 percent to $12.80 before the bell. Shares of Visa were up 2 percent in Europe.

S&P 500 futures rose 8 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 66 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures were 0.25 points higher.

A lot of this is a follow up of the resilience we've seen in the market over a couple of weeks. The clear sentiment is to be buying on any dips, said Matt McCall, president of Penn Financial Group in Ridgewood, New Jersey.

We get buying into the close on a consistent basis. The trend right now is higher. We have earnings improving, and that's giving people the reason buy.

Investor sentiment was also buoyed by signs that the global recession is abating following upbeat economic reports from Europe.

European stocks were up more than 1 percent after data showed July euro zone economic sentiment rose to its highest level in eight months, while German unemployment unexpectedly fell for the first time in July.

The U.S. economic calendar includes the weekly report on initial jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. EST (1230 GMT). A Reuters survey of economists forecast claims to have risen to 570,000 from 554,000 the previous week.

Exxon Mobil Corp , a Dow component, is among companies due to post quarterly results on Thursday.

(Reporting by Ellis Mnyandu; Editing by Padraic Cassidy)