US STOCKS-Futures point to higher Wall Street open after data

(Updates headline)

* Wall St coming off extended decline

* Weekly jobless claims fall, retail sales disappoint

* Citigroup up in premarket after Fed review

* Futures up: Dow 55 pts, S&P 5.75 pts, Nasdaq 8.75 pts

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK, March 12 (Reuters) – Dow Futures pointed to a modestly higher open on Thursday as a surprise drop in retail sales pointed to a consumer that continued to struggle, but also eased some concern about how soon the Federal Reserve may raise interest rates.

Wall Street has been on a downtrend of late, with the S&P 500 falling for eight of the past 11 sessions, shedding 3 percent over the past four sessions alone.

The weakness has largely been driven by concerns the Fed could raise rates as early as June. Last week’s payroll report, which was much stronger than expected, solidified this view, as the central bank said it would begin raising rates when it deemed the economy strong enough to handle it.

While data on wage growth and inflation suggest the Fed could hold off raising rates past June, signs of growing economic momentum have added to investor anxiety on the issue, even though stronger indicators are seen as more positive for the market in the long term. Higher rates tend to raise borrowing costs for companies and individuals and crimp spending.

Jobless claims fell far more than expected in the latest week, supporting a theory that the labor market is rapidly strengthening. Retail sales unexpectedly dropped for a third month in February.

The U.S. dollar index fell 1.1 percent in its biggest one-day drop since September 2013. Despite that, it remains up about 10 percent for the year, building on last year’s rise of nearly 13 percent.

The strength in the dollar has added to worries the currency will continue to weigh on U.S. multinational earnings. S&P 500 earnings are now expected to decline 2.7 percent in the first quarter from a year ago, Thomson Reuters data showed.

Lumber Liquidators jumped 3.4 percent to $ 33.84 in volatile premarket trading after the company, which is facing U.S. government investigations over claims of dangerous levels of a cancer-causing substance in its flooring products, stood by the safety its products and offered free indoor air-quality testing for qualifying consumers.

Bank stocks were active in premarket trading following the Fed’s review of their capital plans. Shares of Bank of America dipped 0.4 percent to $ 16.05 after the Fed approved its capital plans but directed the bank to address process weaknesses. Citigroup jumped 3.3 percent to $ 54.08.

JA Solar rose 6.5 percent to $ 9.60 in premarket after the company reported its results, while Shake Shack tumbled after it forecast slowing same-restaurant sales growth in 2015.

Futures snapshot at 8:36 a.m.:

* S&P 500 e-minis were up 5.75 points, or 0.28 percent, with 180,292 contracts changing hands.

* Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 8.75 points, or 0.2 percent, in volume of 26,377 contracts.

* Dow e-minis were up 55 points, or 0.31 percent, with 21,674 contracts changing hands.

(Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Dow Futures

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