* Initial claims fall by 4,000
* Family Dollar falls after earnings
* Brent crude holds above $ 51 a barrel
* Futures up: Dow 157 pts, S&P 16 pts, Nasdaq 33.5 pts (Adds quote, data)
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Jan 8 (Reuters) – U.S. stocks were poised for a higher open on Thursday, putting equities on track for a second day of gains after the S&P 500 snapped a five-day losing skid and data pointed to a labor market that continues to strengthen.
The benchmark S&P index climbed 1.2 percent on Wednesday, its biggest advance since Dec. 18, to snap its longest losing streak in about 13 months. That came after strong private sector jobs data and minutes from the most recent Federal Reserve meeting reassured investors the bank was in no hurry to start raising interest rates.
Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped by 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 294,000 for the week ended Jan. 3, above the 290,000 estimate but below the 298,000 in the prior week.
“Jobless claims they were about in line, maybe a little weaker than expected but the jobs market still points to jobs growth,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.
After reaching a record high on Dec. 29, the S&P lost 4.2 percent during its losing streak, amid headwinds from a continued rout in oil prices and the possibility of Greece’s exit from the euro zone following its upcoming elections.
The European Central Bank said that access to ECB funding by Greek banks past February will depend on the country successfully completing a final bailout review and reaching a deal on a follow-up plan with its EU/IMF lenders.
S&P 500 e-mini futures were up 16 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 157 points and Nasdaq 100 e-mini futures added 33.5 points.
Signs of possible stabilization in oil prices helped boost sentiment, as Brent crude held above $ 51 a barrel, up 0.1 percent to $ 51.19, while U.S. crude gained 0.4 percent to $ 48.85.
“Oversold, it was just a matter of time before we see stabilizing prices take hold there,” said Cardillo.
Retailers will be in focus as they report monthly sales results. Investors will monitor the figures for signs of whether lower energy prices have helped boost consumer spending.
American Eagle Outfitters advanced 1.2 percent to $ 14.81 in premarket after the apparel retailer reported its holiday sales results and increased its fourth-quarter guidance range.
Family Dollar Stores slipped 0.6 percent to $ 78.40 before the opening bell after the discount retailer posted first quarter earnings.
Bind Therapeutics shares surged 42.7 percent to $ 7.35 in premarket trade after the company said it enrolled its first patient in a mid-stage trial for its lung cancer drug.
Biogen Idec climbed 1.5 percent to $ 358.67 before the opening bell after the drugmaker said a mid-stage study of a new treatment for acute optic neuritis showed evidence of biological repair of the visual system.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum)
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