US STOCKS-Futures higher with initial claims, retail sales due
* Latest China data points to slowing economy
* Ukraine tensions continue, Merkel warns Russia
* Initial claims, retail sales data due
* Futures up: Dow 20 pts, S&P 3 pts, Nasdaq 7.75 pts
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, March 13 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures advanced modestly on Thursday, putting the S&P 500 on track for a second day of gains, ahead of data on the labor market and consumer spending.
* Advances were held in check by another round of limp data out of China, the world's second-biggest economy. China's economy slowed markedly in the first two months of the year, as growth in investment, retail sales and factory output all fell to multi-year lows.
* Investors were looking ahead to weekly initial jobless claims data and retail sales for February, due out at 8:30 a.m. ET (1230 GMT). Expectations are for claims to have risen to 330,000 from 323,000 filings in the prior week. Retail sales are forecast to have risen 0.2 percent, against a 0.4 percent fall in the prior month.
* Also due at 8:30 a.m. are import and export prices for February. Import prices are expected to have risen 0.4 percent with export prices forecast to have climbed 0.2 percent. Continuación...