U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Wall Street on Thursday, with futures for the S&P 500 up 0.22 percent, Dow Jones futures up 0.15 percent and Nasdaq 100 futures up 0.23 percent at 3:33 a.m.

The New York Stock Exchange will close at 1 p.m. EST on Thursday for Christmas Eve and will be closed on Friday for Christmas.

Shares in healthcare companies will be in the spotlight as the U.S. Senate is poised to approve President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul on Thursday. The Senate votes at 7 a.m. EST on the healthcare bill after four weeks of debate and months of political wrangling that have consumed the U.S. Congress and put a dent in Obama's public approval ratings.

Japan's Nikkei average <.N225> rose 1.5 percent to post a three-month closing high on Thursday as a weaker yen boosted exporters, while the few European stock markets open on Thursday were mostly flat in a shortened session ahead of the Christmas break.

Oil rose above $77 on Thursday, after surging more than 3 percent the previous day, lifted by a deeper-than-forecast drop in crude and fuel stocks in the world's top energy consumer and as the dollar paused.

Economic data on tap for Thursday includes durable goods for November and weekly initial jobless claims.

Chevron Corp has agreed to pay almost $46 million to settle charges it underpaid royalties owed for natural gas produced from federal and Indian leases, the Justice Department said on Wednesday.

U.S. Technology shares rose on Wednesday after solid earnings from Micron Technology and Red Hat, but an unexpected drop in new home sales kept a lid on the broader market's gains.

The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> inched up 1.51 points, or 0.01 percent, at 10,466.44. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> added 2.57 points, or 0.23 percent, to 1,120.59. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> climbed 16.97 points, or 0.75 percent, to 2,269.64.

(Reporting by Blaise Robinson; Editing by David Cowell)