U.S. stock index futures rose slightly on Thursday, edging toward a fourth straight positive session, as investors awaited key data on the labor and housing markets.

* The Labor Department is to release weekly first-time claims for jobless benefits at 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT). Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a total of 555,000 new filings, compared with 550,000 in the prior week.

* The Commerce Department is to detail housing starts and permits for August at 8:30 a.m. (1230 GMT). Economists look for an annualized rate of 600,000, compared 581,000 in July. A rate of 580,000 permits are expected versus 564,000.

* Oracle Corp shares fell 2.6 percent to $21.55 in premarket trade after the world's No. 3 software maker reported in-line first-quarter earnings, although sales were below expectations.

* S&P 500 futures rose 1.20 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 added 21 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures gained 2.5 points.

* FedEx Corp is is set to report first-quarter results, with analysts expecting earnings per share of 56 cents, compared with $1.23 a year ago.

* Discover Financial Services is also set to post quarterly numbers, with analysts looking for a loss of 9 cents a share, compared with a profit of 37 cents a year ago.

* European shares rose on Thursday, extending the previous session's sharp gains on renewed hopes of a global economic recovery.

* Asian stocks hit their highest level in 13 months on Thursday on signs the recovery could be strengthening, while the dollar slid to a fresh one-year low as investor optimism eroded its safe-haven appeal.

* Other U.S. economic data will include the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank business activity survey for September at 2 p.m. (1400 GMT). Economists forecast a reading of 8.0 versus 4.2 in August.

* U.S. stocks rose for a third day on Wednesday, hitting fresh 2009 highs in a broad-based rally after data suggested a stronger-than-anticipated recovery.

* The Dow Jones industrial average <.DJI> was up 108.30 points, or 1.12 percent, at 9,791.71. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index <.SPX> added 16.13 points, or 1.53 percent, at 1,068.76. The Nasdaq Composite Index <.IXIC> jumped 30.51 points, or 1.45 percent, at 2,133.15.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)