US STOCKS-Wall Street to rise on data, Washington in focus
* Jobless claims fall further, GDP unrevised
* J.C.Penney pares slide after business update
* Home sales data due at 10:00 a.m. (1400 GMT
* Futures up: Dow 19 pts, S&P 4.4 pts, Nasdaq 33 pts
NEW YORK, Sept 26 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were set to rise at the open on Thursday in the wake of upbeat job market data, with investors still focused on the possible economic impact of an ongoing impasse in budget negotiations in Washington.
The U.S. Congress, struggling to avert a government shutdown next week, was warned by the Obama administration on Wednesday that the Treasury was quickly running out of funds to pay government bills and could soon face a damaging debt default.
Investor angst was heightened as lawmakers grappled with another potential crisis: Federal agency shutdowns that could begin with the new fiscal year next Tuesday, unless Congress comes up with emergency funds.
Lawmakers have given themselves very little time to come up with an agreement, said Art Hogan, managing director at Lazard Capital Markets in New York.
"I hope it doesn't take a big (market) slide to get them to say 'this is what happens when we mess up'," he said.
In a promising sign for the labor market, the number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits fell last week to a near six-year low.
"The incremental improvement there is encouraging but we have to see more meaningful improvement before the (Federal Reserve) has the conviction to move forward" with reducing stimulus, said Eric Wiegand, senior portfolio manager at the Private Client Reserve of U.S. Bank in New York.
Fed officials, including Cleveland Fed President Sandra Pianalto and Minneapolis Fed President Narayana Kocherlakota, are due to speak on Thursday. Traders were still puzzled about the immediate future of the U.S. central bank's stimulus program that has boosted stock prices and propped up the economy for much of the year.
Other data showed the U.S. government left its estimate for economic growth in the second quarter unchanged at 2.5 percent.
S&P 500 futures rose 4.4 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 rose 19 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 33 points.
J.C. Penney shares sharply cut premarket losses after the company issued a business update. The struggling retailer is looking to raise as much as $1 billion in new equity to build its cash reserves.
Bed Bath and Beyond rose 5.8 percent in light premarket trading, a day after it reported a jump in second-quarter profit as the U.S. housing market recovery spurred demand for its products.
Hertz Global shares dropped 10.4 percent in premarket trading after the car rental company cut its full-year forecast.
Eli Lilly fell 3.9 percent in premarket trading after its experimental cancer drug failed to improve survival among breast cancer patients without their cancer worsening in a late-stage trial.
Nike Inc will report results after the closing bell. It will be the first earnings report for the retailer as a member of the blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average.