* GDP, claims data beat expectations
* China Mobile signs deal with Apple - report
* Aeropostale tumbles on forecast
* Futures: Dow down 54 pts, S&P down 5.5 pts, Nasdaq up 0.5 pt
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Dec 5 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were set to open lower on Thursday, as investors ruminated over whether healthy data on the labor market and economic growth may prompt the Federal Reserve to accelerate its timetable to wind down its monetary stimulus.
Gross domestic product grew at an annualized 3.6 percent in the third quarter, the fastest pace since the first quarter of 2012, instead of the 2.8 percent pace reported earlier. Economists polled by Reuters had expected growth would be revised up to 3.0 percent.
But the strong inventory accumulation in the face of a slowdown in domestic demand means businesses will need to draw down on stocks, which will weigh on GDP growth this quarter.
“The big top line number probably will be looked at very carefully and probably not create as big a market reaction as one would expect from the size of the adjustment,” said Fred Dickson, chief market strategist at D.A. Davidson & Co. Lake Oswego, Oreogon.
“On the surface it looks good, underneath, not quite so good.”
In addition, data showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted 298,000, declining for a third straight week, and below expectations of a rise to 325,000.
The S&P 500 has fallen for four straight sessions, shedding 0.8 percent, its longest losing streak since late September as recent economic data has cast some uncertainty over when the Federal Reserve will begin to trim its stimulus of $85 billion in monthly bond purchases.
Futures had modestly gained before the data, only to turn negative after the reports were released.
Many market participants expect the Fed to announce a cut in March. The Fed has said it would slow its stimulus program when certain economic measures meet its targets, including a decline in the U.S. unemployment rate.
S&P 500 futures lost 5.5 points and were below 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 fell 54 points and Nasdaq 100 futures added 0.5 point.
Later in the session at 10:00 a.m. (1500 GMT), October factory orders data is expected. Economists surveyed by Reuters expect a drop of 1.0 percent compared with a 1.7 percent rise in September.
China Mobile Ltd, the country’s largest mobile operator, has signed a long-awaited deal with Apple Inc to offer iPhones on its network, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing an anonymous source familiar with the matter. Apple shares gained 1.4 percent to $573 in premarket trading.
Aeropostale Inc slumped 4.6 percent to $8.93 before the opening bell after the apparel retailer forecast a much bigger-than-expected loss for the holiday shopping quarter.
Dollar General Corp gained 3.8 percent to $58.50 before the opening bell after posting third quarter earnings.
General Growth Properties Inc advanced 4.5 percent to $21.20 in premarket trade. Standard and Poor’s said the company will replace Molex Inc in the S&P 500 after the close of trading on Dec. 9.