* North Korea rhetoric drives demand for gold
* Apple falls on concerns over the new iPhone 8 demand
* T-Mobile, Sprint rise after Reuters report on deal closure
* Futures down: Dow 34 pts, S&P 5.5 pts, Nasdaq 20.25 pts (Adds details, comment, updates prices)
By Sruthi Shankar
Sept 22 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were set to open lower on Friday as investors turned risk averse after North Korea and the United States entered into a fresh war of words.
North Korea said it might test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s threat to destroy the reclusive country in his United Nations address.
Trump also put more economic pressure on North Korea by ordering additional sanctions, including on its shipping and trade networks but stopped short of going after Pyongyang’s biggest trading partner, China.
“Big noise out of North Korea will keep today’s trading defensive as the biggest threat to the markets make the headlines,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial in New York.
“While we don’t expect a serious selloff, the geopolitical rhetoric could heat up.”
The latest spike in tensions prompted demand for gold, which rebounded from a four-week low on Friday.
Wall Street slipped on Thursday as investors braced for a third interest rate hike this year and shares of Apple fell on worries about demand for its latest smartphone.
Investors increased bets the Federal Reserve would raise rates again this year after its economic projections showed 11 of 16 officials see room for a 0.25 percentage points increase in the federal funds rate from the current level.
Market will look for more insights into Fed’s policy from speeches by Dallas Fed president Robert Kaplan and his Kansas City counterpart Esther George later in the day.
Oil prices were steady as investors waited to see whether major producers meeting in Vienna would back an extension to output cuts beyond March next year.
At 8:32 a.m. ET (1232 GMT), Dow e-minis were down 34 points, or 0.15 percent, with 24,779 contracts changing hands.
S&P 500 e-minis were down 5.5 points, or 0.22 percent, with 173,531 contracts traded.
Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 20.25 points, or 0.34 percent, on volume of 39,522 contracts.
Apple was down about 0.65 percent in premarket trading as the launch of iPhone 8 kicked off in a less lively mood in Asia versus previous debuts.
T-Mobile rose 1.51 percent after Reuters exclusively reported the company was close to agreeing tentative terms on a deal to merge with Sprint. Sprint shares jumped 4 percent.
Versartis tanked about 85 percent after its experimental drug for treatment of growth hormone deficiency in children failed in a late-stage study.
United States Steel fell 3.24 percent after Cowen downgraded the stock to “underperform” from “market perform”. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)