Stock index futures fell on Thursday as investors readied for data expected to show more Americans lost their jobs in June than in the previous month, in another sign the economic recovery may be slower than hoped.

U.S. non-farm payrolls data, the most closely watched U.S. economic indicator, is expected to show a loss of 363,000 jobs in June, according to a Reuters poll of economists, compared with 345,000 job losses in May. The unemployment rate is forecast to edge up to 9.6 percent from 9.4 percent in May. Both numbers are due at 8:30 a.m.

Thursday is the last trading day of the week as U.S. markets shut down for the Independence Day holiday. Analysts say lower holiday volumes could lead to increased volatility.

Commodity prices eased, with crude oil falling almost 2 percent to just over $68 a barrel, threatening to dent shares in energy companies. Crude prices fell in the previous session when data showed a bigger-than-expected rise in U.S. gasoline stocks, which dampened hopes of demand-led recovery.

Crude prices were helped lower by a stronger U.S. dollar, which moved 0.5 percent higher against a basket of currencies <.DXY> after hitting a three-week low on Wednesday. The dollar has been volatile in recent weeks, in part because of a continued debate over its position as a global reserve currency.

What you have seen a little bit in the markets is a lot of inconsistencies between reaction to jobs and what appears to be a stalled economy, and reaction to commodities, which has jumped ahead as if the economy's in a recovery mode, said Rick Meckler, president of LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey

Meckler said investors would be squaring positions ahead of the long weekend and would be very influenced by any outlier in that (jobs) number.

S&P 500 futures fell 5.0 points and were below 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 fell 56 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures lost 7.75 points.

Exelon Corp raised its hostile takeover bid for independent power producer NRG Energy Inc to $7.45 billion, citing newly identified cost savings and NRG's recent acquisition of Reliant Energy's retail business. NRG's shares rose 2.1 percent to $26.61 before the bell.

On the corporate earnings front, Illumina Inc reported lower-than-expected second-quarter revenue as customers delayed purchase of its arrays, and cut its 2009 revenue outlook, sending its shares tumbling 21 percent after the bell on Wednesday.

U.S. stocks rose on Wednesday as reassuring manufacturing data from China, Europe and the United States fueled hopes that the world's economy is on the road to recovery, but with the release of the payrolls data looming some caution prevailed, causing indexes to finish sharply off their highs.

The S&P 500 rose 15.2 percent in the second quarter, its best quarterly performance in a decade, after rallying as much as 40 percent since a 12-year closing low on March 9.

(Reporting by Edward Krudy; Editing by Padraic Cassidy)