Wall Street was set to open lower on Thursday as weaker-than-expected jobs data prompted more investors to consolidate gains after a strong third quarter.

The number of U.S. workers filing for jobless benefits rose last week, overshadowing more positive data pointing toward a rebound in U.S. consumer spending in the third quarter.

With the Dow Jones industrial average up 15 percent in the third quarter, investors are turning to other economic data due later in the day, including September manufacturing figures, to determine the validity of the rally.

There is no question there is a continued slowdown in the pace of firings, but it clearly shows businesses remain reluctant to hire, said Peter Boockvar, equity strategist at Miller Tabak & Co in New York.

The government's major employment report, non-farm payrolls, is due on Friday.

Economists expect Thursday's 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. EDT

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

Bank of America Corp shares were little changed in premarket trading 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 4.3 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 24 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures were down 8.5 points.

In other deal talks, Penske Automotive Group Inc
shares tumbled 10 percent before the bell after it said it ended talks with General Motors Co to buy the Saturn brand.

Comcast Corp denied it struck a deal to buy media conglomerate NBC Universal, but the largest U.S. cable service provider stopped short of quashing widespread speculation that it was interested in the entertainment company, jointly owned by General Electric Co and Vivendi. Comcast shares were down 2.8 percent in premarket trade.

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)