* Wal-Mart down after sales growth forecast cut
* IBM up after Morgan Stanley upgrade
* Jobless claims unexpectedly fell last week
* Futures up: Dow 60 pts, S&P 5.5 pts, Nasdaq 18.75 pts (Adds details, comment, updates prices)
By Abhiram Nandakumar
Feb 18 (Reuters) - U.S. stock indexes were set to open higher on Thursday, and extend a three-day rally, as oil prices continued to rise.
Brent crude prices were up 2.5 percent, rising for the second straight day after Iran supported plans to freeze output and a report showed a surprise drop in U.S. inventory.
Adding to the positive sentiment, data showed jobless claims unexpectedly fell to 262,000 last week, pointing to labor market strength that could keep rate hikes on the table this year.
The rout in the stock market this year and the global slowdown have also weighed on U.S. Federal Reserve policymakers, who are considering altering the central bank’s interest rate hike program for 2016.
“Investors are taking a step back, evaluating what’s been going on ... and for the moment, there’s a lack of negative news and some stability in oil,” said Andre Bakhos, managing director at Janlyn Capital in Bernardsville, New Jersey.
The steep slide in oil, whose performance has been tightly tied to the stock market, along with fears of a China-led slowdown in global growth have rattled markets.
At 8:31 a.m. ET (1331 GMT), Dow e-minis were up 60 points, or 0.37 percent, with 36,106 contracts changing hands.
S&P 500 e-minis were up 5.5 points, or 0.29 percent, with 247,485 contracts traded. Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 18.75 points, or 0.45 percent, on volume of 33,320 contracts.
Wall Street closed up on Wednesday, led by energy shares, with the S&P 500 and the Dow logging their first three-day run of gains for the year. Still, the S&P 500 is down 5.7 percent this year.
Shares of Wal-Mart slumped 4.3 percent to $63.26 premarket after the retailer reported a decline in quarterly earnings and cut its full-year forecast.
IBM rose 3.1 percent to $130 after Morgan Stanley upgraded the stock to “overweight”, saying the company’s transformation to a cloud-focused business is underappreciated.
Nvidia was up 7.7 percent at $29.80 after the chipmaker’s revenue beat expectations.
Perrigo slid 5.9 percent at $136.60 after the drugmaker’s adjusted profit missed market estimates for the first time in five quarters.
Ingram Micro surged 22 percent to $36.12 after China’s HNA Group offered to buy the U.S. electronics distributor for $6 billion. (Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan and Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D‘Souza)