US STOCKS-Wall St to open higher on claims data, oil advance

* Pfizer (NYSE: PFE – news) to buy Hospira (NYSE: HSP – news) for about $ 15 billion

* Twitter (Xetra: A1W6XZ – news) gains after Bloomberg reports deal with Google (Xetra: A0B7FY – news)

* Michael Kors (Swiss: KORS.SW – news) tumbles after results, outlook

* Futures up: Dow 104 pts, S&P 14.5 pts, Nasdaq 21.75 pts (Adds quote, data)

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, Feb 5 (Reuters) – U.S. stocks were set for a higher open on Thursday, putting equities on track to rebound from a late selloff in the prior session, after an upbeat report on the labor market and oil prices rose.

Weekly jobless claims rose to 278,000 last week, short of expectations calling for 290,000 claims. The report comes on the heels of a private payrolls report that fell short of expectations on Wednesday and ahead of the monthly employment report on Friday.

“Employment continue to improve at a fairly moderate pace, which feels breakneck compared to the past, which means people are getting jobs and that is a big positive for the economy,” said David Heidel, regional investment strategist at U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“The problem is every time we get confirmation that the jobs picture is improving it also sparks worries the Federal Reserve will act sooner than later to raise rates and continues this schizophrenic up and down forces on risk assets like equity prices.

Oil prices resumed their advance, with U.S. crude up 2.3 percent to $ 49.56 and Brent up 2.8 percent to $ 55.68.

Adding to the positive tone was news that Pfizer would buy Hospira Inc for about $ 15 billion to gain access to its biosimilars. Hospira shares rocketed 35.2 percent to $ 87.61 in premarket trading, while Pfizer gained 3.5 percent $ 33.18.

But other data showed the U.S. trade deficit in December widened sharply to its highest level since 2012, which could dampen the fourth-quarter growth estimate and nonfarm productivity fell more than expected in the fourth quarter.

S&P 500 e-mini futures were up 14.5 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 higher open. Dow Jones industrial average e-mini futures rose 104 points and Nasdaq 100 e-mini futures added 21.75 points.

The S&P 500 snapped a two-day rally of 2.8 percent on Wednesday, after the European Central Bank abruptly canceled its acceptance of Greek bonds in return for funding and crude prices ended a four-day run of gains.

Greece said on Thursday it would not be “blackmailed” by its European Union partners but it did want to find a joint solution to its debt and austerity crisis.

Twitter shares climbed 3.9 percent to $ 42.31 in premarket after Bloomberg reported that the microblogging site had reached a deal with Google to make its tweets more searchable online.

Investors will also eye retailers’ monthly sales results on Thursday to see how big an impact lower gas prices have had on consumer spending. L Brands (NYSE: LB – news) rose 3.5 percent to $ 89.50 in premarket after posting quarterly results and a 7 percent rise in January same-store sales.

Michael Kors shares slumped 6.7 percent to $ 66.63 before the opening bell after the luxury accessories retailer posted third-quarter results and forecast a lower-than-expected profit for the current quarter.

(Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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