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US stock futures flat, inflation data ahead

Written by: Staff
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NEW YORK, Aug 31 (Reuters) U.S. stock index futures were little changed on Thursday before a key inflation indicator that may shed light on the outlook for interest rates.

Retail shares will likely be in the spotlight as companies report same-store sales. Pier 1 Imports Inc., the home furnishing chain, said sales at stores open at least a year had fallen 9.1 percent in August, marking the seventh straight month of declines. For details, see ID:nN31389531.

Adding to a busy calendar, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is scheduled to speak at 12:30 p.m. (1630 GMT), followed by St. Louis Fed President William Poole at 1 p.m.

(1700 GMT).

Personal income and spending data for July, plus the core PCE inflation gauge, are due from the Commerce Department at 8:30 a.m. (1230 GMT) ''The PCE is one of the Fed's favorite indicators, and any upside surprise there could put a spook into this market and that's what people are bracing for,'' said Arthur Hogan, chief market analyst at Jefferies&Co in Boston. If there are no bad surprises ''we could have a gradual steady move to upside,'' he added.

S&P 500 futures were up 0.8 point, but slightly below fair value, a mathematical formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract.

Dow Jones industrial average futures were up 5 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures were up 1.25 points.

Core PCE is expected to rise 0.2 percent, according to the median forecast of economists polled by Reuters.

Several other indicators of U.S. business activity are due.

The Chicago PMI, an indicator of Midwest business conditions, due at 10 a.m. (1400 GMT) is forecast to have slipped in August from a month ago.

Harrah's Entertainment, the world's biggest casino operator, has agreed to buy Britain's London Clubs for 0 million ID:nL31304061.

Tiffany&Co. Inc. reported earnings that missed analysts' estimates, but the luxury jeweler said it had extended its share buyback program to 2009. ID:nN31284174 Ketchup maker H.J. Heinz Co. reported a higher quarterly profit on sales of new products and increased prices.

ID:nWEN4774 REUTERS PKS HS1752

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