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US STOCKS-Dow set to open higher after economic data

* Alibaba up on report of China listing plans

* Dollar General, Sears gain after Q4 results

* Alexion's rare blood disorder drug succeeds in late-stage study

* Futures up: Dow 80 pts, S&P 3.5 pts, Nasdaq 6 pts (Adds comment, updates prices, details)

March 15 (Reuters) - The Dow Jones Industrial Average was set to open higher on Thursday after three sessions of losses that were triggered by intensifying fears of a trade war with China.

The markets found support from economic data that showed the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell last week, pointing to strength in labor market.

A more than expected rise in U.S. import prices in February indicated a steady pick up in inflation.

By 8:39 a.m. ET Dow, e-minis were up 80 points. S&P 500 e-minis rose 3.5 points while Nasdaq 100 e-minis gained 6 points.

The main Wall Street indexes fell on Wednesday after U.S. President Donald Trump sought to impose tariffs up to $60 billion on Chinese imports, while pressing for a cut in China's trade surplus with the United States by $100 billion.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said history showed trade wars are in nobody's interests, but that China would protect its legitimate rights if "something happens we don't want to see".

"The problem is this type of rhetoric creates uncertainties and cap the markets," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial in New York.

"We're probably going to continue to slip in and out of the minus column for most of the day, we might be able to have a mid-session with upward bias."

Trump's decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports as well as on solar panels and washing machines has already sparked threats of retaliation from some trade partners.

Shares in aircraft maker Boeing have shed 8.8 percent since March 1, when Trump announced his plans to impose tariffs.

Major industrial stocks have been under pressure from the protectionist policies, which are likely to firm up with Trump replacing free trade proponent Gary Cohn with conservative commentator Larry Kudlow to lead the National Economic Council.

Alibaba jumped nearly 3 percent on report that the Chinese e-commerce giant was planning to list in China.

Shares of Dollar General rose 6.6 percent after the discount retailer's quarterly same-store sales beat estimates, and those of Sears Holdings Corp jumped 11 percent after the retailer reported smaller-than-expected drop in same-store sales.

Alexion Pharmaceuticals rose 6.4 percent after the company's experimental drug to treat patients with a rare blood disorder met the main goal in a late-stage study. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)