Stock index futures rose on Thursday on upbeat sentiment after data on jobs creation that suggested the world's biggest economy was on a solid path to recovery.

* The focus will be on the initial jobless claims report, expected at 8:30 a.m. EST and forecast to show an increase to 400,000 applications, up from 388,000 in the previous week.

* The jobless claims will come a day after a report showing private employers added a surprising 297,000 jobs in December, which prompted economists to raise forecasts for the widely followed government payrolls numbers expected Friday.

* U.S. retailers should post another month of strong sales gains for December on Thursday, capping their best holiday season since 2007. In an early report, Costco Wholesale Corp posted a 6 percent rise in same-store sales.

* S&P 500 futures rose 4.1 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 31 points and Nasdaq 100 futures added 7.75 points.

* U.S.-traded shares of BP Plc and Transocean Ltd shrugged off a scathing report from a U.S. presidential panel that blamed the worst-ever U.S. oil spill on risky company decisions. BP rose 1.5 percent to $47.19 and Transocean gained 1.1 percent to $74.05.

* The surge in new private-sector jobs, nearly three times the forecast, turned Wall Street's early losses into gains on Wednesday. Financial shares led the way as the Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> added 0.3 percent, the Standard & Poor's 500 <.SPX> rose 0.5 percent and the Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> was up 0.8 percent.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)