Wall Street was poised to open higher on Thursday after new claims for jobless benefits rose more than expected but the number of people seeking extended benefits fell, and a separate report showed the U.S. trade deficit unexpectedly narrowed.

Financial shares could see a boost after cable television network CNBC reported Citigroup Inc plans to repay the U.S. Treasury its rescue funds with about $20 billion raised in a stock offering.

Analysts said the repayment would be another sign that banks were returning to health. Citigroup's shares rose 1.3 percent to $3.90 in premarket trading.

The U.S. Labor Department said initial jobless claims were pushed up by layoffs in seasonal industries last week to 474,000, above the 460,000 analysts had been expecting. But investors were cheered as continuing claims fell.

Other early morning data showed the U.S. trade deficit narrowed unexpectedly in October as the weak greenback helped boost exports and demand for imported oil fell.

Initial claims was a little higher than expected, but I don't think it's too earth-shaking. I think the market will pretty much ignore this today since it was so in-line, said Dan Cook, senior market analyst at IG Markets in Chicago.

Also, the trade balance shrank a little, and that's an offsetting factor.

S&P 500 futures rose 6.60 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 gained 53 points, while Nasdaq 100 futures added 2.75 points.

Drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co forecast 2010 earnings in a range that was in line with analysts' expectations, but gave no sign of how profit might pan out after its biggest drugs lose patent protection between 2011 and 2014. Its shares slipped 1.9 percent to $35.87.

Costco Wholesale Corp , the No. 1 U.S. warehouse club operator, reported a slight increase in first-quarter profit as revenue rose. Costco gained 1.3 percent to $59.41.

The Treasury department will release November's federal budget statement at 2 p.m. <1900 GMT>, with a Reuters poll expecting a gap of $135 billion.

Stocks ended higher on Wednesday as the U.S. dollar fell and investors' appetite for risk returned, lifting shares of financial, technology and natural resource companies.

After soaring 62 percent from March's 12-year low, stocks have drifted of late with investors wary of losing profits as the year draws to a close. The broad S&P 500 is up 21.3 percent for 2009.

You've had a tremendous movement this year, and you'll see a continued battle between people putting away whatever they earned this year in profits and investors still thinking there might be more room to run, said Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management in New York.

(Additional reporting by Ryan Vlastelica; Editing by Padraic Cassidy)