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US STOCKS-S&P 500 set to begin second half of 2021 at record open

(For a Reuters live blog on U.S., UK and European stock markets, click LIVE/ or type LIVE/ in a news window.)

* Weekly jobless claims fall more than expected

* Micron slips despite positive earnings forecast

* Walgreens gains on upbeat Q3 results, FY21 outlook

* Futures: Dow rises 0.18%, S&P up 0.14%, Nasdaq flat (Adds comment, details; updates prices)

July 1 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 index was set to kickoff the second half of the year with a record open on Thursday after data showed fewer-than-expected weekly jobless claims, while Walgreens’ shares gained after it lifted its annual profit outlook.

Official data showed the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell 364,000 in the latest week, while layoffs plunged to a 21-year low in June as companies held on to their workers amid labor shortages.

Data on U.S. factory activity and construction spending is scheduled at 10 a.m. ET.

With the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq hitting a series of record highs last month, investors are razor-focused on Friday’s nonfarm payrolls report, where a strong reading could force the U.S. Federal Reserve to rethink its accommodative stance.

“Markets are looking for not too hot, not too cold labor market,” said Rick Meckler, partner at Cherry Lane Investments, a family investment office in New Vernon, New Jersey.

The Fed’s surprisingly hawkish tone in June had accelerated a move into the so called “safe haven” tech-heavy growth stocks from energy, financials and industrial names that stand to benefit the most from the reopening economy.

Focus also shifts to the second-quarter earnings season, beginning July, to gauge whether the first-half momentum could continue further for the remaining year.

“The markets had a year’s worth of gains. We are looking a period of consolidation and continued rotation within sectors,” Meckler said.

At 8:39 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 63 points, or 0.18%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 6 points, or 0.14%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 5.75 points, or 0.04%.

Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc rose 1% as higher pharmacy sales and widespread COVID-19 vaccine rollouts in the United States drove a third-quarter revenue beat.

Didi Global Inc jumped 9.1%, a day after its shares ended their first day of U.S. trading slightly over their initial public offering price, valuing China’s ride-hailing giant at $68.49 billion.

Chevron Corp, Exxon Mobil, Halliburton Co , Marathon Oil Corp, ConocoPhillips and Occidental Petroleum Corp climbed between 1.5% and 3.1% as crude prices jumped 2%.

Micron Technology Inc slipped 1.8% as the chipmaker sold its Utah factory to Texas Instruments Inc for $900 million to boost its production capacity. (Reporting by Devik Jain and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)

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