Stock index futures edged higher on Thursday following a rally in Chinese equities and ahead of data expected to show a dip in jobless claims after a surprise increase in the prior period.

A 20 percent fall in Chinese equities over the last two weeks sparked a wave of selling in global markets on fears that prices were too far ahead of the recovery. China's benchmark index <.SSEC> gained 4.5 percent on Thursday, easing some of those fears.

There are a lot of companies who carefully watch Chinese growth, particularly in the commodities sector. So it has a big impact on how people view stock valuation, said Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Meckler cautioned, however, that volumes remained light because of the summer season, suggesting trading did not reflect decisions by big-money players.

S&P 500 futures rose 3.5 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 11 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures were up 1.25 points.

The consensus of economists is for initial weekly jobless claims to fall slightly to 550,000, a decline of 8,000 from the previous week, when they posted a surprise rise. It was the first upward move in seven weeks as the labor market struggled to stabilize. The data is due at 8:30 a.m.

In Europe, stocks <.FTEU3> rose 1.4 percent, led by oil majors and banks, while Japan's Nikkei average <.N225> climbed 1.8 percent to bounce off a three-week closing low.

In the United States, NetApp Inc , a data storage equipment maker, fell more than 3 percent to $22.22 in premarket trade after it reported a quarterly profit that topped Wall Street estimates but failed to give a forecast for the current quarter.

Goldman Sachs added Google Inc to its Americas Conviction Buy list and raised its price target on the shares to $560. Google rose 2 percent to $452.84 before the bell.

Sears Holding Corp fell 12 percent to $64.91 in premarket trades after the retailer swung into a loss in the second quarter. HJ Heinz Co posted earnings of 67 cents a share, above Wall Street's estimates of 62 cents a share.

Oil futures fell 0.3 percent to $72.23 a barrel Thursday after rising more than 4 percent the previous day, buoyed by industry data showing a steep drop in crude imports and stockpiles that might suggest an improving demand outlook.

The bounce in oil prices helped U.S. shares on Wednesday. The big three stock indexes ended up 0.7 percent.

(Reporting by Edward Krudy; Editing by Padraic Cassidy)