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Wall St. to open up after jobless claims data; Jackson Hole ahead

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK — U.S. stocks were set for a slightly higher open on Thursday, after jobless claims data pointed to continued improvement in the labor market and before the start of a meeting of top central bankers and economists in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Policymakers are due to discuss the labor markets of major economies at the Aug. 21-23 meeting, with U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen scheduled to speak Friday. Investors will peruse officials’ remarks for clues on the timing of an interest rate hike.

Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank President Esther George told CNBC the time has come for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates, citing labor market improvements.

The S&P 500 (.SPX) rose for a third straight day on Wednesday, narrowly missing a record close by less than 2 points, after minutes from the Fed’s July meeting led investors to believe the central bank was looking for confirmation in the labor market’s recovery before raising rates.

The first of ,a string of economic data releases on Thursday came in the form of initial jobless claims, which fell to a seasonally adjusted 298,000 last week, a drop of 14,000 from the prior week, and slightly below the 300,000 estimate.

At 8:45 a.m., financial data firm Markit will release its preliminary U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index for August. The Thomson Reuters estimate calls for a 55.7 reading versus the prior 55.8 reading in July.

Shortly after that, at 9 a.m., existing home sales for July, the Philadelphia Fed business index for August and the Conference Board’s gauge of leading economic indicators will be released.

S&P 500 e-mini futures (ESc1) were up 3 points and fair value — a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract - indicated a modestly higher open. Dow Jones industrial average e-mini futures (1YMc1) rose 33 points and Nasdaq 100 e-mini futures (NQc1) added 4.25 points.

Family Dollar Stores Inc (FDO.N) rejected Dollar General Corp’s (DG.N) $8.95 billion acquisition offer, citing antitrust concerns, and reaffirmed its support for a buyout offer from Dollar Tree Inc (DLTR.O).

Family Dollar shares shed 0.1 percent to $79.70 and Dollar General lost 1.4 percent to $62.85 in premarket. Dollar Tree also reported quarterly results and shed 1 percent to $54.48.

Sears Holdings (SHLD.O) dropped 2.6 percent to $35 in premarket trade after the owner of Sears department stores and the Kmart discount chain reported a ninth straight quarterly loss.

Earnings are expected from Gap Inc (GPS.N), (CRM.N) and GameStop (GME.N) later on Thursday.