* Initial jobless claims up less than expected
* US retailers post higher Dec sales
* Futures down: S&P 2.8 pts, Dow 24 pts, Nasdaq 2.5 pts
* For up-to-the-minute market news, click STXNEWS/US (Updates with jobless claims data, fresh prices)
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, Jan 7 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures pointed to a lower open on Thursday alongside weak global markets as the dollar rallied after the government reported initial jobless claims rose less than expected.
According to the Labor Department, initial jobless claims increased by 1,000 from last week to a seasonally adjusted 434,000 after declining for two consecutive weeks. Analysts forecast claims rising to 447,000. For details, see [ID:nN07186233]
The better-than-expected data did little to move equities ahead of the closely watched monthly non-farm payrolls report on Friday.
“The weekly initial claims doesn’t strike me as terribly meaningful one way or the other ... The data doesn’t change my mind about tomorrow’s number because we’ll be looking at two different parts of the month,” said Craig Peckham, equity trading strategist at Jefferies & Co In New York.
Economists look for a loss of 8,000 non-farm jobs after a surprisingly small total of 11,000 job losses in November, and the unemployment rate seen at 10.1 percent versus 10 percent last month.
S&P 500 futures SPc1 lost 2.8 points and were below 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 DJc1 fell 24 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures NDc1 dropped 2.5 points.
U.S. retailers including Sears Holdings Corp (SHLD.O) and Costco Wholesale Corp (COST.O) posted higher sales for December as cautious consumers did their holiday shopping with an eye for bargains. [ID:nN07165754]
Sears gained 14.4 percent to $101.60 while Costco rose 1 percent to $60.60.
Limited Brands Inc LTD.N also gained 3.2 percent to $19.67 premarket after reporting December sales results and raising its fourth-quarter earnings outlook.
But Abercrombie & Fitch Co (ANF.N) shares fell 2.8 percent to $35.20 before the bell after the apparel retailer reported December same-store sales fell 11 percent. [ID:nWNBB6189]
The stronger U.S. dollar .DXY, up 0.5 percent against a basket of major currencies, also pressuring commodities.
February crude oil futures CLc1 fell 0.3 percent to $82.80 a barrel as signs of tighter monetary policy in China sparked concerns about demand.
European stocks were down Thursday in their first broad retreat this year, while Japan’s Nikkei average .N225 closed down 0.5 percent. China’s key stock .SSEC index fell nearly 2 percent. [ID:nLDE606150]
St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said Thursday the U.S. labor market is improving and the economy is close to the point where unemployment will start to fall. For details, see [ID:nTOE60607D] (Reporting by Angela Moon; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)