* Retailers in focus with Black Friday underway
* Greece says IMF relaxes debt-cutting target
* RIM shares surge on new product optimism
* Futures up: Dow 38 pts, S&P 5 pts, Nasdaq 14 pts
By Leah Schnurr
NEW YORK, Nov 23 (Reuters) - Wall Street was set to start an abbreviated session modestly higher on Friday on signs of progress in talks about releasing aid to Greece, and with the U.S. retail sector in focus as the holiday shopping season begins.
The U.S. equity market was closed Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday, and trading Friday will end early at 1:00 pm ET (1800 GMT). With many investors on holiday, volume was expected to be thin.
Greece said the International Monetary Fund had relaxed its debt-cutting target for the country, suggesting lenders were closer to a deal for a vital aid tranche to be paid. But other sources involved in the talks cautioned the funding gap was far bigger than Greece has suggested.
Euro zone finance ministers, the IMF and European Central Bank (ECB) failed earlier this week to agree on how to get the country’s debt down to a sustainable level and will have a third attempt at resolving the issue on Monday.
Separately, ECB President Mario Draghi said confidence was returning to the euro zone, and governments must implement reforms to secure the bloc’s future.
“We’re looking at a higher opening, there is some good news coming out of Europe,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.
“The fact that we’re very close to sealing a deal for Greece certainly (helps) the risk-trade.”
Shares of Research in Motion surged in premarket trading on optimism about its soon-to-be-launched BlackBerry 10 devices that will vie against Apple’s iPhone and Android-based smartphones. RIM was up 11.8 percent at $11.47, after earlier climbing more than 14 percent.
S&P 500 futures rose 5 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 added 38 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures were up 14 points.
The S&P 500 was poised to break a two-week losing streak, having gained more than 2 percent this week so far. Stocks had tumbled earlier in the month on worries about the impact of tax and spending changes to take effect from January, but hopes that politicians will reach a deal to avert the so-called fiscal cliff helped the market recoup some of those declines this week.
Investors will likely focus on the retail sector as the holiday shopping season begins, looking for signs of how much consumers are spending as stores offer Black Friday deals and discounts.
Shares of electronics retailer Best Buy Co were up 1.6 percent at $11.75, while J C Penney gained 2.4 percent to $17.67.
Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, kicks off the U.S. Christmas shopping season for retailers and is often the busiest shopping day of the year.
The U.S. Federal Reserve’s securities portfolio has not reached a level where it would hold back the central bank from its bond-buying programs, John Williams, the president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, told the Wall Street Journal in an interview.
The Fed launched its latest stimulus program in September, saying it would buy $40 billion a month in mortgage-backed securities until the labor market significantly improved.
Overseas, German business morale surprised with its first rise in seven months in November, offering hope that Europe’s largest economy could regain some momentum.