* Chip stocks fall after Morgan Stanley downgrade
* Sinclair drops after Tribune ends merger deal
* Futures up: Dow 0.1 pct, S&P 0.13 pct, Nasdaq 0.06 pct (Adds comment, details; updates prices)
Aug 9 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were set to open slightly higher on Thursday, with the S&P 500 aiming at a fresh record as strong earnings helped weather the impact of trade tensions.
Futures implied the benchmark index would open at 2,858.20, about 15 points shy of the record it hit on Jan. 26.
Of the 440 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported so far, 78.6 percent have beaten analysts' expectations, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
"The S&P has been climbing gradually amid geopolitical and trade concerns," said Andre Bakhos, managing director at New Vines Capital LLC in Bernardsville, New Jersey.
"Investor mindset has been predicated on a strong economy and a longer-term perspective, and that has been playing out very nicely."
The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, suggesting that a strong economy was helping the labor market counter ongoing trade tensions.
At 8:44 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 25 points, or 0.1 percent. S&P 500 e-minis were up 3.75 points, or 0.13 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 4.25 points, or 0.06 percent.
CenturyLink jumped 4.7 percent in premarket trading after reporting a better-than-expected quarterly profit.
Sinclair dropped 3.14 percent after Tribune Media ended its $3.9 billion deal to be acquired by Sinclair and filed suit. Tribune shares rose 0.3 percent.
Rite Aid fell 10.9 percent and was the most heavily traded stock after the drug store chain and U.S. grocer Albertsons Cos agreed to terminate their merger agreement.
Chip stocks fell after Morgan Stanley downgraded the U.S. semiconductor industry saying upside to estimates is difficult to come by.
Intel, Micron, Applied Materials and ON Semiconductor fell between 0.1 percent and 3.4 percent. (Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)