Stock futures pointed to a higher open on Thursday on optimism the leaders at the G20 meeting underway in London will agree on ways to temper the economic crisis.

Financial shares rose in pre-market trading as they are closely linked to the strength of the global economy.

Futures pared gains slightly after data showed U.S. workers filing new claims for jobless benefits rose to its highest level in over 26 years last week.

The Financial Accounting Standards Board said that new mark-to-market accounting guidance should be prospective and not retroactive and that new guidance will be effective for the second-quarter, with early application permitted for the first-quarter.

The employment data is still poor-- we saw that in Europe as well-- but I think the markets aren't responding to hard data right now, said Subodh Kumar, chief investment strategist at Subodh Kumar & Associates in Toronto.

At the G20 meeting, I think investors have expectations for news about regulations, and I also think they'd like to see more aggressive stimulus policy.

S&P 500 futures rose 15.00 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 122 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 20.25 points.

Bank of America chief executive Kenneth Lewis told CNBC television the bank has a huge capital cushion even if the economy continues to deteriorate, which also helped sentiment.

Bank of America shares jumped more than 10 percent to $7.78 while Citigroup climbed more than 9 percent to $2.93.

Shares of General Motors surged more than 16 percent to $2.24 in premarket trade, a day after executives cited March sales data that pointed to the first signs of brightening in the auto industry.

In earnings news, shares of Monsanto Co climbed 2.2 percent to $83.50 after the world's biggest seed company reported second-quarter profit that beat Wall Street expectations.

Walgreens Co said comparable store sales for March rose 1.5 percent. while comparable pharmacy sales increased 5.7 percent. Shares rose 1.9 percent to $27.

U.S. oil futures rose nearly 7 percent to $51.68 a barrel, supported by hopes that a summit in London of leaders of the Group of 20 major developed and emerging economies would deliver a package of measures to bolster growth.

Still ahead on the economic front for Thursday are factory orders for February.

On Wednesday, U.S. factory and home sales data raised hopes the downturn is moderating, sparking a broad stocks rally.

(Editing by James Dalgleish)