Stock futures rise on Fed's rate hike, dovish comments

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[December 17, 2015]    By Abhiram Nandakumar

(Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were higher on Thursday, a day after the Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the first time in almost a decade, signaling confidence in the strength of the world's largest economy.

* The central bank raised its benchmark rate by 25 basis points to between 0.25 percent and 0.50 percent, ending months of uncertainty.

* Fed Chair Janet Yellen strongly hinted at a gradual tightening of monetary policy after Wednesday's rate increase and that the pace of further hikes would depend on inflation, which remained firmly below the central bank's 2 percent target.

* Global markets jumped on Thursday, and the dollar strengthened, while U.S. stocks closed sharply higher on Wednesday.

* Investors will now keep a weather eye on data to gauge the economy's capacity to withstand higher rates.

* U.S. economic data due on Thursday is expected to show jobless claims fell last week to 275,000 from 282,00. The data is due at 8:30 a.m. ET (1330 GMT).

* Also scheduled for release at the same time is data on third-quarter current account deficit, which is forecast to have expanded to $118 billion from $109.7 billion.

* Pandora shares were up 19.8 percent at $16.10 after the media-streaming company said new music royalty rates were "balanced".

* Fedex was up 6.2 percent at $158 after it reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit.

Futures snapshot at 6:56 a.m. ET:

* Dow e-minis were up 62 points, or 0.35 percent, with 23,224 contracts changing hands.

* S&P 500 e-minis were up 6.75 points, or 0.33 percent, with 178,690 contracts traded.

* Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 21.25 points, or 0.46 percent, on volume of 22,015 contracts.

(Reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar and Aastha Agnihotri in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)

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