* Retail sales seen strong in September
* Futures up: Dow 53 pts, S&P 7.4 pts, Nasdaq 12 pts
By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK, Oct 4 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were set to rise at the open on Thursday after labor market data came in within expectations and following encouraging comments by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi on tools to tackle the region’s debt crisis.
Draghi said the ECB is ready to buy the bonds of euro zone member countries that ask for it, leaving the door open to a widely expected bailout of Spain.
“Draghi is infusing confidence into the markets today,” said Art Hogan, managing director of Lazard Capital Markets in New York.
“We get reassured that we have the structure to figure this out,” Hogan said about mechanisms to ease the crisis.
Also supporting stocks, data showed that fewer than expected Americans filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week, suggesting a mild improvement in the labor market.
S&P 500 futures rose 7.4 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 rose 53 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 12 points.
Spanish borrowing costs mostly fell at a bond auction but uncertainty over whether the government will ask for an international bailout pressured benchmark yields higher and kept European equities volatile.
The Commerce Department releases August factory orders at 10:00 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT). Economists surveyed by Reuters expect a fall of 5.8 percent compared with a 2.8 percent increase in the prior month.
The Federal Reserve releases minutes from the Sept. 12-13 meeting of its policy-setting Federal Open Market Committee at 2:00 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT).
The Bank of England kept its government bond purchases program unchanged as the economy shows some signs of growth and new schemes to boost credit may spur fresh lending.
Retailer stocks will be in focus as data showed September sales looked solid as shoppers wrapped up back-to-school buying and put the brakes on more big spending before the holiday season.
Costco Wholesale posted a better-than-expected 6 percent rise in September sales at stores open at least a year.