(Updates with jobless claims)

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures
pointed to a higher open Thursday as an unexpected fall in
jobless claims helped boost sentiment on the weak labor
market.

Weekly jobless claims declined more than expected to a
seasonally adjusted 473,000 in the latest week, though a
measure of underlying labor market trends rose to a nine-month
high.

The report came a day after weak readings on durable goods
and home sales underlined concerns about a double-dip
recession.

"The market seems to have a more positive tone right now
and is benefiting from the lowered expectations investors had,"
said Bruce McCain, chief investment strategist at Key Private
Bank in Cleveland.

McCain said problems persisted in the labor market, noting
that "while overall layoffs continue to decline, we're still
not seeing a marked pick-up in new hires."

S&P 500 futures rose 4.4 points and was 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 was up 39
points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 10 points.

Central bankers from around the world will converge later
Thursday at the Jackson Hole, Wyoming, mountain resort to
assess the darkening economic outlook.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is likely to
discuss the uncertain prospects for the economy but isn't
expected to give many clues about whether the Fed will pump
more cash into the economy to keep the recovery going.

U.S. stocks staged a comeback on Wednesday, breaking a
four-day losing streak as key technical support triggered
bargain-hunting. That offset weak data showing July durable
goods orders rose less than anticipated and new home sales
slumped.

In merger news, 3PAR Inc accepted a raised buyout
bid from Dell Inc that trumped an earlier bid from
Hewlett-Packard Co . Shares of 3PAR, a data storage
company, slid 0.8 percent to $26.55 in premarket trading.

Novell Inc is scheduled to report quarterly
results after the market closes Thursday. The software maker is
seen posting a slight decline in profit.

On the technology front, Apple Inc is expected to
show off a snazzier line of iPods next week as speculation
mounts that it may also unveil a new TV product. The stock
edged up 0.7 percent to $244.61 premarket.

Also on tap for Thursday are the Chicago Federal Reserve
Bank's July Midwest manufacturing report and the Kansas City
Fed's August manufacturing report.

In Europe, shares bounced back from a five-week low on
upbeat corporate results. The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300
was up 1 percent. The Nikkei index closed up
0.7 percent.
(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)