US STOCKS-Wall St to open lower after claims, GDP data

Reuters

* 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 0.5pt

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, Dec 5 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were set to openlower on Thursday, as investors ruminated over whether healthydata on the labor market and economic growth may prompt theFederal Reserve to accelerate its timetable to wind down itsmonetary stimulus.

Gross domestic product grew at an annualized 3.6 percent inthe third quarter, the fastest pace since the first quarter of2012, instead of the 2.8 percent pace reported earlier.Economists polled by Reuters had expected growth would berevised up to 3.0 percent.

But the strong inventory accumulation in the face of aslowdown in domestic demand means businesses will need to drawdown on stocks, which will weigh on GDP growth this quarter.

"The big top line number probably will be looked at verycarefully and probably not create as big a market reaction asone would expect from the size of the adjustment," said FredDickson, chief market strategist at D.A. Davidson & Co. LakeOswego, Oreogon.

"On the surface it looks good, underneath, not quite sogood."

In addition, data showed initial claims for stateunemployment benefits dropped 23,000 to a seasonally adjusted298,000, declining for a third straight week, and belowexpectations 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 lateSeptember as recent economic data has cast some uncertainty overwhen the Federal Reserve will begin to trim its stimulus of $85billion in monthly bond purchases.

Futures had modestly gained before the data, only to turnnegative after the reports were released.

Many market participants expect the Fed to announce a cut inMarch. The Fed has said it would slow its stimulus program whencertain economic measures meet its targets, including a declinein the U.S. unemployment rate.

S&P 500 futures lost 5.5 points and were below fairvalue, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into accountinterest rates, dividends and time to expiration on thecontract. Dow Jones industrial average futures fell 54points and Nasdaq 100 futures added 0.5 point.

Later in the session at 10:00 a.m. (1500 GMT), Octoberfactory orders data is expected. Economists surveyed by Reutersexpect a drop of 1.0 percent compared with a 1.7 percent rise inSeptember.

China Mobile Ltd, the country's largest mobileoperator, has signed a long-awaited deal with Apple Inc to offer iPhones on its network, the Wall Street Journalreported on Thursday, citing an anonymous source familiar withthe matter. Apple shares gained 1.4 percent to $573 in premarkettrading.

Aeropostale Inc slumped 4.6 percent to $8.93 beforethe opening bell after the apparel retailer forecast a muchbigger-than-expected loss for the holiday shopping quarter.

Dollar General Corp gained 3.8 percent to $58.50before the opening bell after posting third quarter earnings.

General Growth Properties Inc advanced 4.5 percentto $21.20 in premarket trade. Standard and Poor's said thecompany will replace Molex Inc in the S&P 500 after theclose of trading on Dec. 9.

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