U.S. stocks headed for a higher open on Thursday as investors took Wal-Mart's better-than-expected quarterly results as a sign the economy was on the way to recovery.

But an unexpected fall in July retail sales and a rise in new weekly jobless claims cast a shadow over the upbeat sentiment, trimming gains for U.S. stock index futures that rose above 1 percent in earlier premarket trading.

Retail sales were unexpectedly weaker, suggesting that the money spent on the 'Cash for Clunkers' plan wasn't spent on other things, said Peter Boockvar, equity strategist at Miller Tabak & Co in New York.

The claims data shows that the labor market, while improving, remains difficult. People are still losing jobs and it's still tough.

Shares of Wal-Mart Stores Inc rose 2 percent before the bell to $51.50 after the world's biggest retailer reported second-quarter results that topped Wall Street's expectations.

Department store chain Kohl's Corp also reported better-than-expected quarterly profits, but its outlook was below Wall Street's forecasts and its shares fell 2.5 percent to $50.98.

Stocks pointing to a higher open include Apple Inc after Barclays Capital raised its price target on the shares, citing upbeat long-term outlook for the company. The stock rose 1 percent to $166.84 in premarket trading.

Hewlett-Packard Co , a Dow component, and Dell Inc were also set to support the indexes after JPMorgan raised price targets on those shares.

S&P 500 futures were up 7.10 points, and 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 rose 12.75 points.

U.S. stocks powered higher on Wednesday after reassuring comments from the Federal Reserve, erasing losses from earlier in the week. The broad S&P 500 index <.SPX> ended up 48.7 percent from a 12-year closing low set on March 9.

(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)