* ECB cuts rates to support flagging euro zone economy
* U.S. jobless claims fall sharply to five-year low
* Futures up: S&P 6.4 pts, Dow 76 pts, Nasdaq 12.50 pts
By Angela Moon
NEW YORK, May 2 (Reuters) - Wall Street was set to open slightly higher Thursday as an interest rate cut from the European Central Bank and better-than-expected weekly jobless claims data in the U.S. boosted investors’ appetite for risky assets.
But U.S. stock index futures trimmed some earlier gains as investors digested comments by ECB President Mario Draghi at a news conference.
After a slew of weak economic data in the past few weeks, the number of Americans filing new claims for jobless benefits fell sharply last week to its lowest level since the early days of the 2007-09 recession, suggesting the job market is still healing despite weakness in the broader economy.
Ahead of the data, the ECB lowered its main interest rate by a quarter point to a new record low of 0.50 percent, in response to a drop in inflation well below its target level, and amid rising unemployment.
“In the grand scope of things, you’ve got the Fed still in stimulus mode and Japan surprising markets with the size of their latest stimulus package. Now you have the ECB cutting rates,” said Todd Salamone, director of research at Schaeffer’s Investment Research in Cincinnati, Ohio.
“It all adds to the theme that global central banks are in a stimulus mode and that is positive for equities.”
S&P 500 futures added 6.4 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration of the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures gained 76 points while Nasdaq 100 futures added 12.50 points.
General Motors rose 4 percent in premarket trading after reporting a stronger-than-expected quarterly profit as its North American business improved and its loss in Europe was smaller than Wall Street estimated.
Shares of Facebook Inc rose 2.2 percent in premarket trading after the social network said late Wednesday its mobile advertising revenue growth gained momentum in the first three months.
LinkedIn, which is to report earnings later in the day, was up 0.9 percent in premarket trading.
Other data showed the U.S. trade deficit fell more than expected in March as imports recorded their biggest drop since 2009, the latest sign of slowing domestic demand.
U.S. stocks slumped Wednesday, with the Dow ending a four-day winning streak, as economic data still pointed to anemic growth while bellwether companies disappointed on revenue.
Wednesday’s decline came as the Federal Reserve said it would keep its $85 billion monthly bond-buying program in place, but may cut or increase that program depending on the state of the economy. Data showing weaker-than-expected hiring in the private sector added momentum to a selloff in equities.