* Initial claims drop 14,000 from prior week
* Family Dollar rejects Dollar General buyout offer
* Jackson Hole conference to begin
* Fed's George says time to hike interest rates
* Futures up: Dow 33 pts, S&P 3 pts, Nasdaq 4.25 pts
(Adds data, updates prices)
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Aug 21 U.S. stocks were set for a
slightly higher open on Thursday, after jobless claims data
pointed to continued improvement in the labor market and before
the start of a 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
* Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank President Esther George
told CNBC the time has come for the Federal Reserve to raise
interest rates, citing labor market improvements.
* 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.
* The first of ,a string of economic data releases on
Thursday came in the form of initial jobless claims, which fell
to a seasonally adjusted 298,000 last week, a drop of 14,000
from the prior week, and slightly below the 300,000 estimate.
* 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 4.25 points.
* Family Dollar Stores Inc rejected Dollar General
Corp's $8.95 billion acquisition offer, citing antitrust
concerns, and reaffirmed its support for a buyout offer from
Dollar Tree Inc.
* Family Dollar shares shed 0.1 percent to $79.70 and Dollar
General lost 1.4 percent to $62.85 in premarket. Dollar Tree
also reported quarterly results and shed 1 percent to $54.48.
* Sears Holdings dropped 2.6 percent to $35 in
premarket trade after the owner of Sears department stores and
the Kmart discount chain reported a ninth straight quarterly
* Earnings are expected from Gap Inc, Salesforce.com
and GameStop later on Thursday.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum)