The US bourse is set to open higher as European leaders get ready to meet.

New York - US stocks were set to rise at the open on Thursday following upbeat labour market data, amid a backdrop of a sanctions confrontation between Russia and the West that highlighted the relative strength of the US economy.

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week and the four-week claims average, considered a better measure of labour market trends, fell to its lowest since February 2006.

Moscow imposed a ban on imports of many Western foods on Thursday, retaliating against sanctions imposed for its support of rebels in eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea.

Russia will ban various imports from the United States, the European Union, Australia, Canada and Norway in a measure that isolates its consumers from world trade to a degree unseen since Soviet days.

The sanctions are seen as possibly hurting European economies more than the United States due to closer ties between Russia and Europe.

Such a scenario could favour US equities and other assets as foreign cash looking for yield may head towards the world's largest economy.

The full extent of the impact, however, is yet to be known.

When you consider the problems in Europe and some emerging markets, “the US is regaining the interest of global investors as a place to hold your money,” said Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.

“Interest rates are so low that it favours stocks over Treasuries at least in the short term.”

S&P 500 e-mini futures were up 7 points and fair value - a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract - indicated a higher open.

Dow Jones industrial average e-mini futures rose 39 points and Nasdaq 100 e-mini futures added 11 points.

Twenty-First Century Fox reported a quarterly profit that beat Wall Street's expectations, and executives stressed they would not make a new approach for Time Warner after withdrawing an $80-billion (R858 billion) bid.

Fox shares rose 5.6 percent in premarket trading.

Bank of America is close to a deal with the US Department of Justice to pay more than $16.5 billion to end investigations into mortgage securities that the bank and companies it bought had sold in the run-up to the financial crisis, a person familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

The bank's shares rose 1.6 percent before the bell.

Generic drug maker Mylan narrowed its full-year revenue and earnings forecast, citing delays in US Food and Drug Administration approval of key products. Its shares fell 1.6 percent in light premarket trading. - Reuters