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Futures edge higher ahead of Jackson Hole meeting, data

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[August 21, 2014]  By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures edged higher on Thursday, ahead of a flurry of economic data and the start of the meeting of top central bankers and economists in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Policymakers are due to discuss the labor markets of major economies at the Aug. 21-23 meeting, with U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen scheduled to speak Friday. Investors will peruse officials' remarks for clues on the timing of an interest rate hike.

The S&P 500 rose for a third straight day on Wednesday, narrowly missing a record close by less than 2 points, after minutes from the Fed's July meeting led investors to believe the central bank was looking for confirmation in the labor market's recovery before raising rates.

Investors will digest a host of economic data prior to the start of the Jackson Hole conference, with weekly initial jobless claims data due at 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT). Expectations call for claims to fall to 300,000 from the 311,000 claims in the prior week.

At 9:45 a.m. (1345 GMT), financial data firm Markit will release its preliminary U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index for August. The Thomson Reuters estimate calls for a 55.7 reading versus the prior 55.8 reading in July.

Shortly after that, at 10:00 a.m. (1400 GMT), existing home sales for July, the Philadelphia Fed business index for August and the Conference Board's gauge of leading economic indicators will be released.

S&P 500 e-mini futures <ESc1> were up 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 modestly higher open. Dow Jones industrial average e-mini futures  rose 33 points and Nasdaq 100 e-mini futures added 4 points.

Bank of America gained 0.6 percent to $15.61 before the opening bell. The bank is expected to pay more than $16.5 billion to end investigations into mortgage securities the bank and its units sold ahead of the financial crisis, in a deal that could be announced as early as Thursday, a person familiar with the matter said.

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Hewlett-Packard Co posted a surprise increase in quarterly revenue after sales from its personal computer division climbed 12 percent, but a flat to declining performance from its other units underscored an uphill battle to revive growth. Its shares dipped 0.3 percent to $35 in premarket trading.

Sears Holdings shed 1.2 percent to $35.51 in light premarket trade after the owner of Sears department stores and the Kmart discount chain reported a ninth straight quarterly loss.

Earnings are expected from Gap Inc, Salesforce.com and GameStop later on Thursday.

European shares rose, with Germany's DAX index  climbing to a three-week high after a survey showed the country's private sector grew for the 16th month running in August.

Asian shares came under pressure as a disappointing survey on Chinese manufacturing overshadowed better news from Japan.

(Editing by Bernadette Baum)

[ 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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