Stock index futures dipped on Thursday as investors took a cautious track ahead of data on first-time jobless claims, a precursor to the monthly jobs report due later in the week.

Initial jobless claims, due at 8:30 a.m. EDT, are expected to show requests for initial jobless benefits dipped to 455,000 last week from 457,000 the week before.

The report comes ahead of Friday's closely watched monthly nonfarm payrolls report, with economists forecasting a drop of 65,000 in July as U.S. Census Bureau jobs dried up. Private employers are expected to add 90,000 jobs. Better-than-expected data out of the private sector on Wednesday helped temper some jitters about the job market.

Investors have been anxious to see improvement in the labor market with high unemployment remaining a major roadblock to a sustainable recovery. Worries that the pace of the recovery is slowing have also plagued investors.

Nonetheless, analysts expect the gains to accumulate, and the market has risen about 10 percent since hitting the low for the year in July. The S&P 500 held above its 200-day moving average for a third day in a row on Wednesday, indicating positive underlying strength.

With the market being high, there's a bit of caution. The market wants more evidence, and I think the evidence is unfolding, that the U.S. economy is stabilizing at a slower rate, said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Avalon Partners in New York.

S&P 500 futures fell 1.4 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 dropped 4 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures fell 0.25 points.

July same store sales from retailers were also being released. Shares of Abercrombie & Fitch Co were up 1.9 percent to $39.55 in premarket trading.

BP Plc's U.S.-listed shares rose 2.9 percent to $40.51 in premarket trade on hopes its oil well in the Gulf of Mexico will soon be permanently sealed.

Insurer Cigna Corp reported a far higher-than-expected quarterly profit and raised its full-year forecast. Cigna was up 5.6 percent at $33.94.

Stocks rose in thin trade on Wednesday, lifted by retailers' earnings and better-than-expected economic data.

(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)