By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were
slightly higher Thursday ahead of highly anticipated data on
the labor market.

* With many analysts citing unemployment as the biggest
hurdle facing the economy, the weekly jobless claims numbers
will be examined for signs of any strength in the jobs market.
The data will be released at 8:30 a.m. EDT.

* Economists polled by Reuters expected initial claims to
fall to 490,000 from 500,000 in the prior week, which was a
nine-month high. Continuing claims are seen edging slightly

* Also due later Thursday are the Chicago Federal Reserve
Bank's July Midwest manufacturing report and the Kansas City
Fed's August manufacturing report.

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

* S&P 500 futures rose 1.9 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 was up 12
points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 2.75 points.

* 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

* Novell Inc is scheduled to report quarterly
results after the market closes Thursday. The software company
is expected to post a slight decline in quarterly.

* Dental equipment maker Patterson Cos Inc is also
on tap to report.

* On the technology front, Apple Inc is expected
to show off a snazzier line of iPods on Sept. 1 as speculation
mounts the consumer electronics giant may also unveil a new TV

* Inc said Wednesday more of its new
third-generation Kindles were ordered in the first month of
availability than any previous models.

* In Europe, shares bounced back from a five-week low as
upbeat corporate results boosted investor sentiment. The
pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 was up 0.5 percent. The
Nikkei index closed up 0.7 percent.
(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)