* Jobless claims, preliminary Q1 GDP data on tap
* Strong growth may spur fears of Fed tapering
* Bond yields to stay in focus after recent spike
* Futures up: Dow 48 pts, S&P 5.7 pts, Nasdaq 11 pts
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, May 30 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were modestly higher on Thursday, following a decline in the previous session and ahead of key data on the economy.
Shares tumbled on Wednesday as U.S. Treasury bond yields rose to their highest level in more than a year, pressuring stocks that pay high dividends.
The rise in yields came on concerns that the Federal Reserve would curb its bond-buying program sooner than most people expected. However, shares advanced on Tuesday following reassurances from central banks abroad that their programs would not be curtailed.
The Fed is expected to make decisions on its policy based on economic conditions, placing a higher premium on Thursday’s economic data. A preliminary read on GDP is seen showing expansion of 2.5 percent in the first quarter, even with the previous quarter.
Separately, initial jobless claims are seen holding steady at 340,000 in the latest week. Both data points are due at 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT).
“Markets should be able to hold firm unless things are drastically weak, with claims north of 360,000,” said John Brady, managing director at R.J. O‘Brien & Associates in Chicago. “However, even then the S&P should be able to find support at 1,645.”
S&P 500 futures rose 5.7 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures added 48 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 11 points.
Loose monetary policies by central banks around the world have lifted stock markets, driving both the Dow and the S&P 500 to record highs this year. The S&P 500 is up 15.6 percent from its close at the end of 2012.
Defensive stocks have been among the leaders this year as investors favor high-dividend stocks over fixed-income securities in a low interest-rate environment.
While signs that the Fed may begin tapering its stimulus is expected to hit cyclical shares - groups tied to the pace of economic growth, like energy and financials - further rises in Treasury yields are expected to weigh on defensive names.
“Equities are still seen as cheap compared to Treasuries, but that trade isn’t as aggressive as it used to be,” said Brady.
In company news, Costco Wholesale Corp reported third-quarter earnings that beat expectations by a penny, though sales were below forecasts.
Mining equipment maker Joy Global Inc reported a drop in second-quarter earnings and revenue as a fall in commodity prices pushed miners to cut capital spending.
EMC Corp shares rose 2.5 percent to $24.25 in premarket trading after instituting a quarterly dividend and increasing its stock buyback program to $6 billion from $1 billion.
General Mills fell 2 percent to $47.21 after giving an outlook.
The Food and Drug Administration approved two new GlaxoSmithKline drugs for treating advanced melanoma.