Stocks headed for a higher open on Friday as reassuring comments from Moody's tempered fears about the credit rating outlook for the United States, while higher oil prices lifted energy shares like Exxon Mobil.

Additionally, investors were encouraged by flurry of upbeat quarterly results from major retailers, including a surprise first-quarter profit on Thursday from Sears Holdings Corp , owner of Sears department stores and Kmart discount chain.

Sears shares jumped 23.1 percent to $61.76 before the bell, while shares of Exxon Mobil Corp , a Dow component, climbed nearly 1 percent to $68.85 as U.S. front-month crude rose 1.3 percent.

Moody's Investors Service said Thursday it is comfortable with the triple-A sovereign rating on the United States, but the rating is not guaranteed forever.

There's a little bit of yesterday's fears abating ... that's bringing us up, said Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment strategist at Windham Financial Services in Charlotte, Vermont.

We know the rating does stand a good chance of being downgraded at some point in time, but I wouldn't expect that to happen this year.

U.S. stock and bond markets sold off Thursday amid renewed concerns about the risk of the U.S. losing its top rating after Standard & Poor's revised its outlook on Britain to negative from stable, indicating the risk of a downgrade.

S&P 500 futures rose 6.10 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 52 points, while Nasdaq 100 futures shot up 7.75 points.

With the U.S. Memorial Day holiday weekend approaching and the economic diary bare, trading volumes were likely to be light, boosting chances for a choppy session.

Stronger-than-expected quarterly profit from Gap Inc , the global apparel retailer, also offered optimism about consumer spending. The stock rose 1.4 percent to $16.21 before the bell.

The Washington Post reported the government would steer beleaguered automaker General Motors Corp into bankruptcy next week, quoting sources.

But a source told Reuters early Friday the administration has no plans to push GM into bankruptcy next week, and the outcome of restructuring efforts may not be known until a June 1 deadline. GM shares were up 5.7 percent to $2.03.

The rating fears, along with data that showed more weakness in the job market, presented a major headwind for stocks in their bid to extend a rebound from the 12-year low of early March.

Heading into Friday's session, the benchmark S&P 500 <.SPX> is up 31.3 percent from the low of March 9 after losing some ground following a 37.4 percent run-up through May 8.

(Reporting by Ellis Mnyandu; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)