Stocks were poised for their third straight advance on Thursday after economic data pointed to continued gradual improvement in the economy.

Gross domestic product was revised down for the third quarter, at 1.8 percent versus the previous 2 percent estimate, on a sharp drop in healthcare spending, but stronger business investment and a fall in inventories pointed to a pickup in output in the current period.

On the labor front, initial jobless claims hit a 3-1/2 year low, suggesting the labor market recovery was gaining speed.

It appears to be the case we had more inventory liquidation than we thought, which means that if end-of-market demand remains strong in Q4 and it apparently is, then we should be looking at an inventory restocking cycle that commences. And we have confirmation that started in October, looking at the manufacturing and wholesale inventory numbers, said Phil Orlando, chief equity market strategist at Federated Investors in New York.

Clearly the year has ramped nicely, based on an improving economic picture. The double-dip fear the bears were talking about in the second half of the year is off the table at this point and investors are seeing domestic fundamentals are in pretty good shape.

S&P 500 futures rose 5.5 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 was up 37 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 7 points.

Volume is expected to remain light as the Christmas holiday draws closer, leaving the market susceptible to heightened volatility.

Yahoo Inc advanced 2.3 percent to $16.35 in premarket trade after sources said the company was considering a plan to unload stakes in its prized Asian assets as part of a complicated share transaction.

Tibco Software Inc climbed 5 percent to $23.09 premarket after the business software maker posted strong quarterly results and forecast first-quarter revenue above estimates.

American Greetings Corp slumped 12.5 percent to $14.99 in light premarket trade after reporting third-quarter earnings and a 2012 outlook.

Other data expected later includes the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers at 9:55 a.m. EST (1455 GMT), and the November report on leading economic indicators from the Conference Board at 10 a.m. EST.

European Commission antitrust officials showed no signs of being swayed by Deutsche Boerse's and NYSE Euronext's arguments to save their deal, sources said, and they appeared likely to take their campaign directly to commissioners.

(Reporting By Chuck Mikolajczak; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)