U.S. stock index futures were higher on Friday, a day after the S&P hit a 17-month closing high and ahead of reports that could give clues about the strength of the American consumer.

Investors awaited February retail sales data as well as the Reuters/University of Michigan consumer sentiment index for March. Economists in a Reuters survey expect a 0.2 percent decline in sales after a 0.5 percent rise in the prior month. The consensus for consumer sentiment is 73.6, matching the February number.

The retail sales number will probably be impacted by weather in the month, but there's real potential for the sentiment number to surprise to the upside as the general economy continues to improve, said Rick Meckler, president of LibertyView Capital Management in New York.

Meckler said if the sentiment number is worse than expected, I don't expect a big selloff because we have a lot of upward momentum, but some profit-taking seems inevitable after a string of good days.

Financial stocks will be in focus after gains in the previous session as bipartisan U.S. Senate negotiations to overhaul financial regulation collapsed, jeopardizing a top Obama administration priority.

CF Industries shares fell 6.5 percent to $94.12 in premarket trading after Agrium Inc said it was abandoning its $5.4 billion bid for the company. The move ends a drawn-out takeover battle and brings CF one step closer to closing a deal with Terra Industries Inc . Agrium rose 7.5 percent to $71.80 premarket.

S&P 500 futures rose 2.8 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 jumped 21 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures were up 2 points.

National Semiconductor Corp late Thursday reported quarterly results that beat expectations and forecast fourth-quarter revenue ahead of consensus. The stock rose 2.5 percent to $17.40 before the bell.

Also late Thursday, Aeropostale Inc reported sharply higher quarterly profit, beating estimates, and Potash Corp of Saskatchewan
raised its first-quarter outlook. U.S.-listed shares of Potash surged 7.8 percent to $126.

The U.S. dollar index <.DXY> fell 0.7 percent, providing a lift to commodities.

Japan's Nikkei average hit its highest close in seven weeks on Friday, as exporters got a boost from speculation that the yen may weaken if the Bank of Japan takes additional steps to ease monetary policy next week. European stocks inched higher in early trade, led by banks.

U.S. stocks gained on Thursday as rising bank shares led a late rally, eclipsing concerns China may move to cool its overheating economy.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)