US STOCKS-Futures little changed ahead of data flurry

Fri Sep 13, 2013 8:14am EDT

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* Retail sales, U.Mich consumer sentiment survey headline expected data

* U.S., Russia to push for new Syria peace talks

* Intel climbs in premarket after upgrade

* Futures: Dow up 15 pt, S&P up 0.2 pt, Nasdaq up 4.75 pts

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, Sept 13 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were little changed on Friday, ahead of data on retail sales and consumer sentiment that may help investors assess the probability the Federal Reserve may trim its stimulus measures next week.

Data expected at 8:30 a.m. (1230 GMT) includes retail sales and the producer price index for August. Retail sales expectations call for a 0.4 percent rise compared with a 0.2 percent increase in July. PPI is expected to climb 0.2 percent versus the unchanged July reading.

The S&P 500 is up 1.7 percent for the week and has risen in seven of the past eight sessions, as fears about military action by the West against Syria receded and data showed China's economy may be improving.

Later in the session at 9:55 a.m. (1355 GMT), investors will eye the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary consumer sentiment index for September. Economists in a Reuters survey expect a reading of 82.0 compared with 82.1 in the final August report.

The cluster of data may help shape investor opinion on the potential for a cut in stimulus by the Federal Reserve when it ends a two-day policy meeting on Sept 18.

The Fed currently purchases $85 billion a month in Treasury and mortgage bonds in its effort to stimulate the economy. A Reuters poll on Monday showed economists at a majority of U.S. primary dealers expect the Fed to announce it will cut its bond purchases by $10 billion.

However, some recent economic data, including last week's disappointing payrolls report, has created some uncertainty surrounding any expected action by the Fed.

"People have resigned themselves to the fact that it is going to happen. I'm sure there will still be a little volatility associated with it because there is at least a small group of participants that believe they may defer," said Mark Luschini, chief investment strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia.

"It's not so much if they are going to do it, but what it is going to look like - whether it is going to be taper-light, something more aggressive, and of course along with it and key will be whatever forward-looking guidance they break the announcement with."

U.S. crude fell 0.9 percent as concerns about Syria retreated. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov agreed on Friday to push again for an international conference aimed at ending Syria's civil war.

Business inventories for July are due at 10 a.m. (1400 GMT), with estimates showing an expected rise of 0.2 percent against the unchanged June reading.

S&P 500 futures rose 0.2 point and were slightly 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 rose 15 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 4.75 points.

Intel Corp shares gained 1.8 percent to $23.04 in premarket trade after Jefferies boosted its rating on the chipmaker to "buy" from "hold" and upped its price target to $30 per share.

European stocks dipped in early trade, halting their week-long rally, although the retreat was limited by M&A activity in the health care sector.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan shed 0.8 percent, pulling further away from a three-month high and on track for a second losing day after a 10-day winning streak.

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