Ahead of the open, the Dow Jones Industrial Average futures pointed to a 0.38% increase, S&P 500 futures signaled a 0.30% rise, while the Nasdaq 100 futures indicated a 0.17% gain.
Stocks were boosted after official data showed that China's trade surplus narrowed less-than-expected in February, falling to USD15.3 billion from a surplus of USD29.2 the previous month. Analysts had expected the trade balance to fall into a deficit of USD8.8 billion last month.
Sentiment also improved after the Department of Labor said on Thursday that the number of individuals filing for initial jobless benefits fell by 7,000 to a seasonally adjusted 340,000 last week, compared to expectations for an increase of 8,000 to 355,000.
The upbeat data fuelled optimism over a recovery in the U.S. labor market.
The tech sector was expected to be active, amid reports Google's Motorola Mobility unit is preparing to cut another 1,200 jobs or 10% of its workforce, as the smartphone maker tries to return to profitability.
Google shares were up 0.23% in pre-market trade.
Separately, a judge ruled on Thursday that Apple must show in detail how it’s complying with court orders to turn over evidence in a privacy lawsuit, sending shares in the iPhone maker down 0.09% in early trading.
According to Bloomberg, U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal in San Jose, California, issued the order after the plaintiffs’ lawyers claimed Apple withheld documents it had previously been ordered to produce.
Insurers were also likely to be in focus, after American International Group said it will redeem USD1.1 billion of debentures as the company seeks to reduce debt before reinstating a dividend.
AIG shares edged up 0.21% pre-market.
Elsewhere, Pandora Media soared 26.17% in early trading, after posting stronger-than-expected quarterly results. The company also said CEO Joseph Kennedy is stepping down in a surprise announcement.
Other stocks in focus included Ann Taylor and Foot Locker, due to report earnings later in the day.
Across the Atlantic, European stock markets were higher. The EURO STOXX 50 jumped 0.97%, France’s CAC 40 advanced 0.82%, Germany's DAX climbed 0.59%, while Britain's FTSE 100 added 0.23%.
During the Asian trading session, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rallied 1.41%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index surged 2.64%.
Later in the day, the U.S. was publish government data on nonfarm payrolls and the unemployment rate, as well as data on average hourly earnings.