U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Thursday, as government data indicated the recession may be abating, while investors digested May sales from retailers.

The number of U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless benefits fell to 621,000 last week, showing an easing of the pace in the labor market's deterioration, while non-farm productivity rose by 1.6 percent, much stronger than initially estimated in the first quarter.

It's good news with respect to the fact that we're looking like we turned the corner in terms of the claims. They're receding from the highs we saw in April, said Michael Darda, chief economist at MKM Partners LLC in Greenwich, Connecticut.

That's a sign that we're close to the end of the recession, if it holds, and we're also seeing that kind of data in other indicators.

S&P 500 futures rose 3.8 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 added 30 points, while Nasdaq 100 futures gained 2 points.

As retailers reported May sales, investors sought evidence that consumers were spending again. Thirteen of 22 retailers have reported worse-than-expected same-store sales, according to data compiled by Thomson Reuters.

Costco Wholesale Corp shares slid 1.8 percent to $47.60 after the warehouse club retailer said May same-store sales fell 7 percent, excluding fuel, but rose by 1 percent with fuel included. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected a 6.4 percent decline.

Goldman Sachs raised its end-of-2009 oil price forecast to $85 a barrel from $65 and introduced a new end-of-2010 forecast of $95, it said in a research note. Oil futures were up 3 percent. Exxon Mobil Corp shares rose 0.7 percent to $72.60, while Chevron Corp added 1.1 percent $69.

Intel Corp shares slipped 0.4 percent to $15.87 after the chipmaker said it will acquire Wind River Systems Inc , a software and operating systems maker, for about $884 million, or $11.50 per share in cash. Wind River shares surged 44 percent to $11.51 in premarket trade.

UAL Corp's United Airlines asked Boeing Co and Airbus to propose competing bids to supply up to 150 new airliners, the Wall Street Journal reported on its website.Shares of Dow component Boeing rose 0.8 percent to $48.74 in premarket trade.

Ciena Corp shares dropped 8.8 percent to $10.05 in premarket trade after the communications equipment maker reported a quarterly loss and a bigger-than-expected drop in revenue.

U.S. stocks tumbled Wednesday, halting a four-day winning streak, as falling oil prices hit energy shares, while less-than-upbeat economic reports rekindled worries about recovery prospects.

Since reaching a bottom in early March, the Dow has gained 34.1 percent and the S&P has risen 39.7 percent.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)