Stock index futures rose on Thursday after well-received European sovereign debt auctions encouraged investors ahead of job market and retail sales data expected to show the economy is steadily recovering.

Italian and Spanish government bond yields fell sharply as the strong auctions were taken as an encouraging sign in their 2012 funding quests.

S&P 500 futures hit fresh 5-month highs after the auctions and after the European Central Bank left its benchmark rate at 1.0 percent, matching the lowest level ever. The decision was in line with expectations.

The European auctions went well, yields are down in Italy and Spain, and that is giving the market a lift here, said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.

Bank stocks led gains in Europe, and U.S. peers could get a further boost. Bank of America Corp rose 2.6 percent to trade above $7 for the first time in more than two months.

The KBW bank index <.BKX> has risen 10.2 percent in the first seven sessions of the year after falling 24.6 percent in 2011.

S&P 500 futures rose 6.6 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration of the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures gained 75 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 14 points.

On the macroeconomic front, weekly jobless claims data will be released at 8:30 a.m. EST. Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a total of 375,000 new filings, compared with 372,000 in the prior week.

The Commerce Department releases December retail sales also at 8:30 a.m. Economists expect a 0.3 percent rise, compared with a 0.2 percent increase in November.

We should see a fairly good sales report that could keep the market higher for most of the session, Cardillo said.

Other data includes business inventories for November, due at 10 a.m. EST.

Chevron Corp fell 1.3 percent to $106.33 premarket after the U.S. energy major said fourth-quarter profit would be significantly below the previous quarter.

Sears Holdings Corp dropped 9.5 percent to $29.76 premarket after Bloomberg reported CIT Group Inc would no longer finance supplier shipments to the retailer.

Wynn Resorts Ltd fell 5.3 percent to $106 premarket, a day after its largest shareholder filed a request seeking records on his investments. A Bank of America/Merrill Lynch note said there was an implication in the request that funds were improperly spent.

Stocks held firm near recent five-month highs on Wednesday, recovering from early losses.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)