* Retailers in focus with Black Friday underway
* Greece says IMF relaxes debt-cutting target
* RIM shares surge 14 pct on new product optimism
* Futures up: Dow 10 pts, S&P 3.7 pts, Nasdaq 8.5 pts
By Leah Schnurr
NEW YORK, Nov 23 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures gained modestly Friday ahead of an abbreviated session on Wall Street, 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).
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 3.70 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 10 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures were up 8.50 points.
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 1.3 percent at $11.72.
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.