By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were set to tick higher at the open on Thursday after data showed the U.S. economy contracted in the first quarter, due to weather, but signs show activity has since rebounded.
* Supporting a push higher on the S&P 500, which could challenge its record set earlier this week, the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week, pointing to a strengthening labor market.
* The U.S. 10-year note yield ticked up after the data but was still near its lowest in 11 months. Low yields could continue to entice investors into dividend-paying stocks, with the high-yielding utilities sector of the S&P 500 widely outperforming the benchmark so far this year.
* S&P 500 e-mini futures were up 2 points in low volume. Fair value - a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract - indicated a slightly higher open. Dow Jones industrial average e-mini futures rose 22 points and Nasdaq 100 e-mini futures added 4 points.
* Hillshire Brands shares jumped 14 percent in premarket trading after Tyson Foods offered to buy Hillshire in an all-cash, $6.8-billion deal, topping a bid from Pilgrim's Pride earlier in the week. Tyson shares rose 2.8 percent and Pilgrim's Pride fell 1.5 percent in low volume.
* Shares of cyber security software maker Palo Alto Networks soared 12.4 percent premarket a day after it reported a better-than-expected jump in quarterly revenue as it added more customers, and said it settled patent litigation with network gear maker Juniper Networks.
* Apple shares edged up 0.4 percent premarket after it announced on Wednesday it will buy music streaming and audio equipment company Beats for about $3 billion and bring its founders, recording mogul Jimmy Iovine and rapper Dr. Dre, into Apple's ranks.
* Abercrombie & Fitch shares jumped 6.2 percent premarket after quarterly sales fell less than expected for the first time in six quarters.
(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Nick Zieminski)
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