U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Thursday after Alcoa posted better-than-expected quarterly results and gave a positive tone to the start of the second-quarter earnings season.

Weekly jobless claims, due at 8:30 a.m. EDT, could test that optimism. The weekly data follows last week's weaker-than-expected monthly jobs report.

Alcoa Inc's shares rose more than 5 percent in premarket trading a day after posting a third consecutive quarterly loss, with the deficit less than estimated.

Investors had been skittish ahead of what is expected to be a weak earning season, but Alcoa's results provided some relief.

Alcoa's smaller loss, however, underscored the toll the recession is taking on corporate earnings.

Arthur Hogan, chief market analyst at Jefferies & Co in Boston, said positive news that includes narrower losses may not be enough to underpin the market.

That's the rub. Is news that's less bad going to be enough of a driver to move the market higher or at least keep us in place? Or have we gotten to the point where we actually need to start seeing good news?

The S&P 500 has rallied nearly 40 percent from its 12-year low set in early March on expectations that the economy would rebound from a deep recession. The rally wilted as of late as investors want hard evidence of that recovery.

S&P 500 futures rose 7.5 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 climbed 42 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 8.5 points.

Crude oil futures rose 1.7 percent and boosted shares of European petroleum companies, setting a positive tone for the energy sector in New York.

Oil giant Chevron Corp is expected to report interim quarterly results, according to Thomson Reuters.

Another piece of economic data, May wholesale inventories, is due at 10 a.m. (1400 GMT). Also, retailers will report June same-store sales throughout the day.

On Wednesday, the Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> gained 0.18 percent, the Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> added 0.06 percent, while the Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> dropped 0.17 percent in a choppy session.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; additional reporting by Leah Schnurr; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)