Stock index futures rose on Thursday, ready to snap a four-day losing streak as retailers posted better-than-expected August sales and as investors wait for weekly jobless claims data.

U.S. retailers' monthly sales showed some signs that the economic downturn was easing, but a late U.S. Labor Day holiday and muted consumer enthusiasm weighed on results in the key back-to-school season.

Chinese stocks <.SSEC> rose almost 5 percent overnight after a top regulator told investors that the country's market was healthy. Equities in China had fallen steeply in recent days, rattling investors around the world. European shares edged higher.

The U.S. Labor Department's jobless claims data comes one day before key monthly payroll figures and after data showed Wednesday the private-sector lost more jobs in August than expected. The raft of labor market data this week comes as investors look for signs a 50-percent run-up in the S&P 500 was justified.

There is a lot of interest in how back-to-school shopping develops, said Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey. It's a prelude to what the holiday season might look like and to see whether the consumer's holding back on spending is finally beginning to end,

Costco Wholesale Corp said monthly same-store sales fell 2 percent in August; analysts had expected a fall of 5.7 percent.

S&P 500 futures rose 7.90 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 65 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 12.00 points.

LibertyView's Meckler said low trading volumes ahead of the Labor Day holiday had increased volatility, and he forecast increased volumes next week to smooth the market.

U.S. crude oil futures rose 1.5 percent to above $69 a barrel, gaining ground a day after data showed U.S. gasoline stocks fell sharply, boosting expectations that demand will be revived in the United States. Metal prices rose across the board.

Weekly initial jobless figures are due at 8:30 a.m. EDT, with economists looking for claims to fall to 560,000 from 570,000 a week ago. The Institute for Supply Management's non-manufacturing data for August is set for 10:00 a.m. EDT, with a reading of 48.0 expected from a survey of economists by Reuters.

Economists polled by Reuters look for a loss of 225,000 jobs in Friday's nonfarm payrolls report for August.

(Reporting by Edward Krudy; Editing by Padraic Cassidy)