* Initial claims, Markit PMI, existing home sales due
* Jackson Hole conference to begin
* Bank of America gains before expected settlement deal
* Futures up: Dow 33 pts, S&P 3 pts, Nasdaq 4 pts
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Aug 21 U.S. stock index futures edged higher on Thursday, ahead of a flurry of economic data and the start of the meeting of top central bankers and economists in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
* Policymakers are due to discuss the labor markets of major economies at the Aug. 21-23 meeting, with U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen scheduled to speak Friday. Investors will peruse officials' remarks for clues on the timing of an interest rate hike.
* The S&P 500 rose for a third straight day on Wednesday, narrowly missing a record close by less than 2 points, after minutes from the Fed's July meeting led investors to believe the central bank was looking for confirmation in the labor market's recovery before raising rates.
* Investors will digest a host of economic data prior to the start of the Jackson Hole conference, with weekly initial jobless claims data due at 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT). Expectations call for claims to fall to 300,000 from the 311,000 claims in the prior week.
* At 9:45 a.m. (1345 GMT), financial data firm Markit will release its preliminary U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index for August. The Thomson Reuters estimate calls for a 55.7 reading versus the prior 55.8 reading in July.
* Shortly after that, at 10:00 a.m. (1400 GMT), existing home sales for July, the Philadelphia Fed business index for August and the Conference Board's gauge of leading economic indicators will be released.
* S&P 500 e-mini futures were up 3 points and fair value - a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract - indicated a modestly higher open. Dow Jones industrial average e-mini futures rose 33 points and Nasdaq 100 e-mini futures added 4 points.
* Bank of America gained 0.6 percent to $15.61 before the opening bell. The bank is expected to pay more than $16.5 billion to end investigations into mortgage securities the bank and its units sold ahead of the financial crisis, in a deal that could be announced as early as Thursday, a person familiar with the matter said.
* Hewlett-Packard Co posted a surprise increase in quarterly revenue after sales from its personal computer division climbed 12 percent, but a flat to declining performance from its other units underscored an uphill battle to revive growth. Its shares dipped 0.3 percent to $35 in premarket trading.
* Sears Holdings shed 1.2 percent to $35.51 in light premarket trade after the owner of Sears department stores and the Kmart discount chain reported a ninth straight quarterly loss.
* Earnings are expected from Gap Inc, Salesforce.com and GameStop later on Thursday.
* European shares rose, with Germany's DAX index climbing to a three-week high after a survey showed the country's private sector grew for the 16th month running in August.
* Asian shares came under pressure as a disappointing survey on Chinese manufacturing overshadowed better news from Japan. (Editing by Bernadette Baum)