September 22, 2016 / 1:02 PM / 2 years ago

US STOCKS-Nasdaq eyes record high after Fed stands pat on rates

* Nasdaq marks new closing high on Wednesday

* Weekly jobless claims fall to 252,000 vs est. 262,000

* Futures up: Dow 73 pts, S&P 8.75 pts, Nasdaq 21.75 pts (Adds details, comments, updates prices)

By Yashaswini Swamynathan

Sept 22 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks looked set to rise at the open on Thursday, with the Nasdaq aiming at a record intraday high, a day after the Federal Reserve stood pat on interest rates.

While the risks to economic outlook were roughly “balanced”, the Fed maintained rates as inflation continued to run below its 2 percent target and members saw room for improvement in the labor market.

The central bank slowed the pace of future hikes and cut its longer run interest rate forecast to 2.9 percent from 3 percent, but sent a strong signal for a move by the end of this year.

The dollar index declined 0.4 percent on Thursday, and was on track to mark the second straight day of losses after the central bank’s decision.

“The Fed probably appeared less hawkish than what the markets had expected,” said Ryan Larson, head of equity trading at RBC Global Asset Management in Chicago. “I think the market continues to be focused on the Fed pushing a hike for later as a good thing rather than bad.”

Wall Street rose on Wednesday, with the Nasdaq closing at a record high as the rate decision whetted investor appetite for equities.

The consensus among economists is for a hike in December as the Fed’s November meeting comes right around the U.S. Presidential elections.

The probability of a November hike stands at a modest 12.4 percent, and rises to 58.4 percent for December, according to the CME Group’s FedWatch tool.

Adding some support to the Fed’s plans for at least one hike this year was a report that showed the number of Americans applying for unemployment last week fell to a two-month low.

A report from the National Association of Realtors is expected to show existing home sales rose to a 5.45 million-unit rate in August from 5.39 million units in July. The data is due at 10:00 a.m. ET.

Dow e-minis were up 73 points, or 0.4 percent at 8:33 a.m. ET (1233 GMT), with 22,132 contracts changing hands.

S&P 500 e-minis were up 8.75 points, or 0.41 percent, with 167,535 contracts traded.

Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 21.75 points, or 0.45 percent, on volume of 23,457 contracts.

Shares of Apple rose 0.45 percent premarket after Nomura and RBC raised price targets.

Jabil Circuit fell 3.8 percent to $22.83 after the contract electronics maker said it intends to realign its business at a cost of $195 million over two years.

Red Hat rose 6.7 percent to $82.27 after the Linux operating system distributor reported second-quarter revenue and profit that beat market expectations. (Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Don Sebastian)

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