US STOCKS-Futures climb with initial claims, spending data on tap
* Initial claims, personal income data on tap
* Fed Presidents Lockhart, Dudley to speak
* Futures up: Dow 63 pts, S&P 8.8 pts, Nasdaq 14.75 pts
NEW YORK, June 27 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures rose on Thursday, indicating the S&P 500 may climb for a third consecutive day, ahead of data on the labor market and consumer spending.
Data expected at 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT) includes weekly initial jobless claims, and personal income and spending for May. Economists surveyed by Reuters forecast a total of 345,000 new jobless filings compared with 354,000 in the prior week. Personal income is expected to rise 0.2 percent and spending is expected to show a 0.3 percent gain.
"It will be interesting to see if we get better-than-expected numbers (whether) good news remains good news," said Art Hogan, managing director at Lazard Capital Markets in New York.
"If the market has gotten to that point where we rest expectations, where tapering is actually good news because the economy is improving, it's a healthier place to be. When you are in that environment of 'bad news is good news' because you expect more monetary policy, that is counter-intuitive in the long run."
The benchmark S&P 500 had dropped as much as 4.8 percent since the June 19 statement from the U.S. Federal Reserve, when Chairman Ben Bernanke said growth was strong enough for the Fed to start slowing its stimulative bond purchases later this year. However, the index has climbed 1.9 percent over the past two sessions as economic data and comments from Fed officials quelled fears over an earlier-than-expected pullback of stimulus.
Federal Reserve Bank of New York President William Dudley is scheduled to give remarks on the national and regional economy before a briefing on labor market conditions for recent college graduates at 10:00 a.m. (1400 GMT) while Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart is due to speak on the economic outlook at 12:30 p.m. (1630 GMT).
S&P 500 futures rose 8.8 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures gained 63 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 14.75 points.
Later in the session at 10:00 a.m. (1400 GMT), the National Association of Realtors issues Pending Home Sales for May. Economists in a Reuters survey expect a 1.0 percent rise compared with a 0.3 percent increase in April.
In corporate news, ConAgra Foods Inc reported a quarterly profit, reversing a year-ago loss, helped by its acquisition of Ralcorp Holdings.
U.S.-listed shares of Barrick Gold advanced 1.8 percent to $15.04 in premarket trading, as gold prices edged higher following a 12-percent drop over the past eight sessions.
European share prices slipped after two days of sharp gains, weighed by banks and chemical stocks, with many investors bearish about the near-term prospects for the market.
Asian shares rose for a second day, buoyed by hopes the U.S. Federal Reserve will not rush to end its stimulus program, and by further signs that stresses in China's banking system are easing.