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US STOCKS-Wall Street to rise after claims data; Macy's jumps

Rodrigo Campos
Thursday, 9 Jan 2014 | 9:17 AM ET

* Jobless claims fall more than expected in latest week

* Intercept Pharma drug meets goal in trial, shares triple

* Fed's Yellen hopes for at least 3 pct growth - Time

* Futures up: Dow 40 pts, S&P 3 pts, Nasdaq 6 pts

NEW YORK, Jan 9 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were set to rise at the open on Thursday in the wake of upbeat labor market data and as Macy's lifted the bar further for retailers after a stellar holiday season.

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits last week fell slightly more than expected to a seasonally adjusted 330,000, pointing to an economy that was continuing to gain steam.

"The market is comfortable with that number, it doesn't suggest the Fed will stop or accelerate its taper plan; hanging here in the 320,000 to 340,000 zone is good," said Peter Jankovskis, co-chief investment officer at OakBrook Investments in Lisle, Illinois.

The U.S. central bank said last month it would begin trimming its stimulative monthly bond purchases, and minutes from the Fed's most recent meeting showed its top officials were keen to steer a delicate path and many of them stressed that future decisions were not set in stone.

Janet Yellen, set to take over as head of the Federal Reserve next month, was "hopeful" that U.S. economic growth will accelerate in 2014 to reach 3 percent or more and persistently low inflation will move up toward the central bank's target of about 2 percent, according to a Time magazine interview released Thursday.

S&P 500 futures rose 3 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 40 points and Nasdaq 100 futures added 6 points.

Macy's shares jumped 6.6 percent in premarket trading a day after the department store operator reported strong holiday sales and gave a preliminary forecast for 2014 that suggests it will continue to outpace its rivals.

"The theme of a better economy seems to resonate with investors and they continue to look for companies that will do well in a better economy," said Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Intercept Pharmaceuticals Inc soared more than 220 percent in trading before the opening bell after it said an analysis by an independent safety committee showed its liver disease drug met the main goal of a mid-stage trial. Shares traded near $240 after closing at $72.39 Wednesday.

Bed Bath & Beyond fell 9 percent in premarket trading a day after lowering its fourth quarter and full-year earnings estimates.

Family Dollar reported a weaker quarterly profit as it discounted more than it had planned to win holiday shoppers, sending its shares down 7.3 percent in premarket trading.

T-Mobile US on Wednesday reported a fourth-quarter boost in customer growth and offered to pay customers to switch from rival services, escalating already intense competition in the U.S. wireless market.