* Weekly jobless claims rise
* Sept China factory activity falls
* Apple down 1.3 pct
* Futures up: Dow 52 pts, S&P 5 pts, Nasdaq 16 pts (Adds details, comment, updates prices)
By Abhiram Nandakumar
Oct 1 (Reuters) - Wall Street looked set to start the last quarter of the year on a positive note on Thursday as weak data from China raised hopes of more stimulus measures from Beijing and investors awaited a barrage of U.S. data.
Factory activity in China shrank again in September, leading some investors to believe that the government will be more aggressive in its measures to boost the health of the world's second-largest economy.
Global investors will be looking to put a bruising quarter behind them - U.S. stocks posted their worst quarter in four years, while the Shanghai stock market plunged about 25 percent.
"Historically, the third quarter tends to be a difficult quarter and the fourth quarter tends to be the best quarter of the year," said Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas.
Investors will be parsing data released this week, with the crucial non-farm payroll numbers due on Friday, for clues on the timing of an interest rate hike by the U.S. Federal Reserve.
The Fed kept rates unchanged at near-zero levels earlier this month as it waits for signs of sustained economic growth.
"I think there's reason for optimism, but at the same time, I think there are plenty of reasons to be cautious," Frederick said, adding that an increase in interest rates would be an "upside catalyst" for markets at the end of the year.
Data showed the number of Americans filing new applications for jobless benefits rose modestly last week.
Other data scheduled for Thursday includes Markit's final manufacturing PMI data for September at 9:45 a.m. ET (1345 GMT). The index's preliminary reading came in at 53 earlier this month.
U.S. automakers report September sales. Analysts expect sales of 17.6 million on an annualized basis, up from 16.5 million last September.
The Institute for Supply Management's index of U.S. factory activity, to be reported at 10:00 a.m., is expected to have fallen to 50.6 in September from 51.1 in August.
At 8:38 a.m., S&P 500 e-minis were up 5 points, or 0.26 percent, with 332,140 contracts traded. Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 16.25 points, or 0.39 percent, on volume of 61,129 contracts. Dow e-minis were up 52 points, or 0.32 percent, with 44,587 contracts changing hands.
U.S. stocks closed higher on Wednesday as investors bought beaten-down stocks, with biotechs rising for a second day.
San Francisco Fed Reserve President John Williams is scheduled to speak on the economic outlook at 2:30 p.m. in Utah.
Celgene was up 1.9 percent at $110.25 after J.P. Morgan raised its rating on the stock to "overweight" from "neutral".
Apple's shares were down 1.27 percent at $108.90 premarket.
Sarepta surged 16.79 percent to $37.50 premarket after the biotech company said data on its drug for progressive muscle-wasting disorder showed long-term effectiveness. (Reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)