* Starboard Value takes stakes in Office Depot, Staples
* Initial claims fall, retail sales top expectations
* Futures up: Dow 55 pts, S&P 8.25 pts, Nasdaq 14.75 pts (Adds quote, data)
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Dec 11 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were poised for a higher open on Thursday after a three-day drop for the S&P 500 as data pointed to a strengthening economy that appeared likely to overcome the impact of a steep drop in oil prices.
The benchmark S&P index dropped more than 1 percent on Wednesday and has shed 2.4 percent over the past three sessions, it’s worst run in two months, as weakness in oil prices has weighed heavily on the energy sector.
But the weakness in oil has helped consumer spending, with retail sales data for November topping expectations, indicating lower gas prices gave holiday shopping a boost.
“We are starting to get some metrics around the energy and we are seeing that one ‘X’ factor of will consumers spend this extra money?” said Sean McCarthy, regional CIO for Wells Fargo Private Bank in Scottsdale, Arziona.
“And in the holiday season they are (spending), and more so.”
Falling oil prices have added to worries about global demand and raised concerns about earnings for energy companies, with year-end tax selling putting additional pressure on the group. The sector is down 14.7 percent for the year and is the worst performing of the 10 major S&P sectors.
Brent crude, down more than 40 percent from its June high, briefly managed to climb back above the $65 mark only to reverse course and last traded down 0.7 percent to $63.78. WTI crude shed 1.3 percent to $60.16.
Other economic data showed a strengthening labor market, as weekly initial jobless claims dipped by 3,000 to an adjusted 294,000 while the drop in oil prices helped spur the biggest decline in U.S. import prices in 2-1/2 years.
The data may influence investors’ expectations on whether the Fed will adjust its language to keep interest rates near zero for a “considerable time” when policymakers meet next week.
S&P 500 e-mini futures were up 8.25 points and fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract, indicated a higher open. Dow Jones industrial average e-mini futures rose 55 points and Nasdaq 100 e-mini futures added 14.75 points.
Later in the session at 10:00 a.m. (1500 GMT), business inventories data for October is expected.
U.S.-listed shares of Teva Pharmaceutical edged down 0.1 percent to $56.47 in premarket trade after the generic drugmaker forecast 2015 revenue below analysts’ expectations.
Lululemon Athletica lost 1 percent to $46.25 in premarket trading after the maker of yoga apparel posted quarterly results.
Staples Inc jumped 10.5 percent to $16.37 and Office Depot climbed 11.8 percent to $7.52 before the opening bell after Activist investor Starboard Value LP disclosed stakes in both office-supply retailers in a move that could set up a potential merger.
Editing by Bernadette Baum