* U.S. non-farm payrolls data due at 8:30 a.m. ET
* China exports grow in February
* Futures up: Dow 61 pts, S&P 3.7 pts, Nasdaq 11 pts
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, March 8 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures rose on Friday, with the S&P 500 on track to rise for a sixth straight session and the Dow set to scale fresh peaks after positive export data from China and ahead of the release of U.S. payrolls data.
The government’s non-farm payrolls data is due at 8:30 a.m. ET (1330 GMT) and follows a better-than-expected ADP private-sector employment report and weekly initial jobless claims earlier in the week. Economists in a Reuters survey expect that 160,000 jobs were created in February versus 157,000 jobs in the prior month. The unemployment rate is expected to remain unchanged from 7.9 percent rate in January.
China’s exports soared 21.8 percent in February from a year ago, exceeding expectations and suggesting global demand may also be on the mend. Imports fell 15.2 percent to 13-month lows.
“With promising Chinese economic data, the market is enthusiastic and continuing its positive run, fueling additional optimism ahead of the employment data,” said Andre Bakhos, director of market analytics at Lek Securities in New York.
“There appears to be a high confidence level the payroll numbers will be better than consensus given the peek at the private payroll numbers earlier this week.”
The benchmark S&P index has advanced 1.7 percent in the week, its biggest weekly gain so far this year, on data showing an improving labor market picture and expectations the Federal Reserve will not end its economic stimulus program soon.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended Thursday at a record high for a third consecutive session and the S&P is about 2 percent away from an all-time intraday high as investors have kept any dips contained by seizing the opportunity to buy.
But the possibility of a pullback continues to be eyed, as the last correction for the benchmark S&P index was nearly a year ago - a 9.9 percent slide between April highs to the start of June.
S&P 500 futures rose 3.7 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 gained 61 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 11 points.
Later in the session, the Commerce Department will release wholesale inventories for January at 10:00 a.m. (1500 GMT). Economists in a Reuters survey forecast inventories to rise 0.3 percent versus a drop of 0.1 percent in December.
Pandora Media shares jumped 23.1 percent to $14.44 in premarket trade on stronger-than-expected quarterly results. The company also said CEO Joseph Kennedy is stepping down in a surprise announcement.
Google’s Motorola Mobility unit is to shed another 1,200 jobs or 10 percent of its workforce as the smartphone maker tries to return to profitability, Google said on Friday.
SkullCandy Inc shares tumbled 19.2 percent to $5.43 in premarket trading after the headphone maker reported higher-than-expected fourth-quarter revenue but said it expects to post a loss in the current quarter.
European shares rose on Friday as investors anticipated a strong U.S. jobs figure, with unprecedented central bank monetary policy supporting equities around multi-year highs.
Asian shares rose as gains in U.S. stocks on solid data and Chinese exports that beat forecasts underpinned investor risk sentiment while denting demand for safe-haven gold.