U.S. stock index futures fell on Thursday, with investors consolidating gains after a strong quarter, and as a raft of economic data was due that could offer clues about the tone of economic recovery.

With the Dow Jones industrial average up 15 percent in the third quarter, Thursday's indicators, notably September manufacturing and weekly jobless claims, will be crucial in determining the validity of the rally.

We came off the third quarter with solid gains ... and now that we are in a new month, a new quarter, I expect some sort of a pullback as investors are ready to scrutinize economic indicators today after some disappointing ones yesterday, said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners in New York.

The data include pending home sales and personal income and consumption for August, and may offer fresh evidence on the strength of the U.S. recovery, ahead of Friday's non-farm payrolls numbers.

Economists expect the Institute of Supply Management manufacturing reading to climb to 54.0 for September from 52.9 in August, according to a Reuters survey. Pending home sales are seen rising 1 percent in August compared with a 3.2 percent increase in the previous month. The numbers are due at 10:00 a.m.

A total of 530,000 new filings for jobless claims, the same as the previous week, is forecast by economists. The data is set for release at 8:30 a.m. EDT.

Stocks in the spotlight include Cisco Systems Inc which fell 1.1 percent in premarket trade after it offered by buy Norwegian video conferencing company Tandberg for $3 billion in cash.

Bank of America Corp shares rose 1.6 percent premarket after Chief Executive Ken Lewis said he was retiring after months of being dogged by a series of government investigations into the company's acquisition of Merrill Lynch. The company did not name a successor.

S&P 500 futures fell 5.8 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 lost 39 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures were down 9.75 points.

Penske Automotive Group Inc
shares tumbled after the bell Wednesday after it said it ended talks with General Motors Co to buy the Saturn brand. [ID:nN30232356]

Comcast Corp , the largest U.S. cable service provider, denied a report on Wednesday that it had struck a deal to buy media conglomerate NBC Universal for $35 billion. But Comcast stopped short of quashing widespread speculation that it was interested in NBC Universal, owned by General Electric Co and Vivendi. Comcast shares were down 2.7 percent in premarket trade.

Federal Chairman Ben Bernanke testifies on Thursday before the House Financial Services Committee, where he is expected to suggest that a broad-based oversight council of financial regulators, not just the Federal Reserve, should be set up to monitor systemic risk to the economy.

U.S. stocks fell on Wednesday after a surprising contraction in the Institute for Supply Management-Chicago's business barometer, indicating weakening business activity in the regional economy.

Still, the Dow marked its best quarterly performance since the fourth quarter of 1998, while the S&P 500 notched its second straight quarterly advance of 15 percent. The Nasdaq gained 15.7 percent for the third quarter.

(Reporting by Angela Moon; Editing by Padraic Cassidy)