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US STOCKS-Futures gain ahead of ECB meeting, U.S. data

* Futures up: Dow 50 pts, S&P 6.3 pts, Nasdaq 13 pts

NEW YORK, Oct 4 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures rose on Thursday, ahead of a central bank decision in Europe and the release of U.S. data on the labor and manufacturing sectors.

* The U.S. Labor Department releases first-time claims for jobless benefits for the week ended Sept. 29 at 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT). Economists in a Reuters survey expect a total of 370,000 new filings compared with 359,000 in the prior week.

* The Commerce Department releases August factory orders at 10:00 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT). Economists surveyed by Reuters expect a fall of 5.8 percent compared with a 2.8 percent increase in the prior month.

* The Federal Reserve releases minutes from the Sept. 12-13 meeting of its policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee at 2:00 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT).

* Spain will continue to be the focus as the European Central Bank meets, with investors expecting Spain, which is at the sharp end of the euro zone debt crisis, to ask the bank for an aid package that would allow the ECB to buy its bonds.

* The Bank of England kept its government bond purchases program unchanged as the economy shows some signs of growth and new schemes to boost credit may spur fresh lending.

* S&P 500 futures

rose 6.3 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 50 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures

added 13 points.

* U.S. retailer Costco Wholesale Corp

posted a better-than-expected 6 percent rise in September sales at stores open at least a year.

(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

((rodrigo.campos@thomsonreuters.com)(+1.646.223.6344)(Reuters

Messaging: rodrigo.campos.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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