* Futures off: Dow 15 pts; S&P 3 pts, Nasdaq 6.5 pts (Adds comment, updates prices)

By Tanya Agrawal

April 9 (Reuters) – U.S. stocks were set to dip at the open on Thursday after initial jobless claims rose less than expected, suggesting an abrupt slowdown in job growth in March could be temporary.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 14,000 to a seasonally adjusted 281,000. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims rising to 285,000.

“More and more, the market reacts to positive economic news with pessimism and weak numbers are encouraging. We have to get out of that cycle and we need the first rate increase [from the Fed] for that to happen,” said Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments LLC in Lisle, Illinois.

Altera dropped 11.4 percent in premarket trading after CNBC, citing sources, reported that Intel dropped its takeover offer after the two companies could not agree on a price. Intel shares were down 2.2 percent.

S&P 500 e-mini futures were down 3 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/lower/flat open. Dow Jones industrial average e-mini futures fell 15 points and Nasdaq 100 e-mini futures lost 6.5 points

Data expected at 10:00 a.m. (1400 GMT) includes wholesale inventories numbers for February.

Walgreen shares fell 3 percent after the company’s reported net sales came in slightly below expectations.

Alcoa shares fell 2.7 percent in premarket trading after revenue lagged analysts’ estimates in the first quarter.

Shares of Zynga lost 9.3 percent after announcing on Wednesday that Chief Executive Don Mattrick will step down and founder Mark Pincus will return to head the company.

U.S.-traded shares of Novogen jumped 44 percent after the Australian drug company said studies confirmed a potential drug to treat melanoma, a type of skin cancer.

(Editing by Bernadette Baum)