* Initial claims data on tap
* Family Dollar falls in premarket after earnings
* Brent crude holds above $51 a barrel
* Futures up: Dow 178 pts, S&P 19.5 pts, Nasdaq 41.75 pts
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Jan 8 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures rose on Thursday, putting equities on track for a second straight day of gains after the S&P 500 snapped a five-day losing skid and ahead of data on the labor market.
* The benchmark S&P index climbed 1.2 percent on Wednesday to snap its longest losing streak in about 13 months, notching its biggest gain since Dec. 18. The advance came after strong private sector jobs data and minutes from the most recent Federal Reserve meeting reassured investors the bank was in no hurry to start raising interest rates.
* After reaching a record high on Dec. 29, the S&P dropped 4.2 percent in the course of its losing streak, with headwinds from a continued rout in oil prices and the possibility of Greece’s exit from the euro zone following its upcoming elections.
* Investors will eye weekly initial jobless claims data due at 8:30 a.m. (1330 GMT) for signs of continued strengthen in the labor market. Expectations call for claims to fall to 290,000 from the 298,000 in the prior week. The key monthly payrolls report is expected on Friday.
* Signs of possible stabilization in oil prices helped boost sentiment, as Brent crude held above $51 a barrel, up 0.3 percent to $51.31 while U.S. crude edged up 0.2 percent to $48.76.
* Retailers will also be in focus as they report monthly sales results. Investors will monitor the figures for signs of whether lower energy prices have helped consumer spending.
* Family Dollar Stores slipped 1.1 percent to $78 in light premarket trade after the discount retailer posted first quarter earnings.
* European shares rose sharply as retail stocks rallied and on the reassurance from the Fed minutes. Asian stocks gained on upbeat U.S. employment data and as a slide in oil prices was halted.
Futures snapshot at 7:25 a.m:
* S&P 500 e-minis were up 19.5 points, or 0.97 percent, with 179,924 contracts changing hands.
* Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 41.75 points, or 1.01 percent, in volume of 30,133 contracts.
* Dow e-minis were up 178 points, or 1.02 percent, with 31,535 contracts changing hands. (Editing by Bernadette Baum)