March 24, 2016 / 1:08 PM / 4 years ago

Wall St set to open lower as strong dollar weighs

(Corrects to say Thursday, not Wednesday, in paragraph 8)

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) March 22, 2016. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Abhiram Nandakumar

(Reuters) - Wall Street was set to open lower on Thursday, ahead of the long Easter weekend, as a stronger dollar weighed on commodities.

The dollar was on track for its best streak of gains in almost a year after comments by U.S. Federal Reserve policymakers suggested support for more than one increase in interest rates this year.

St Louis Fed President James Bullard, a voting member of the Federal Open Market Committee, became the latest official to adopt a hawkish stance after he said on Thursday that another rate hike may not be far off.

The comments by Fed officials come after Fed Chair Janet Yellen adopted a cautious tone on raising rates and said the central bank remains data dependant and wary of weak global financial and economic conditions.

Investors will now assess data to gauge the health of the economy as they begin to price in the possibility of more rate hikes in 2016 than anticipated.

“You’ve had a pretty good recovery here now, and it seems like risk-reward certainly isn’t as attractive,” said Aaron Clark, a portfolio manager at GW&K Investment Management in Boston.

At 8:35 a.m. ET, (1235 GMT), Dow e-minis were down 86 points, or 0.49 percent, with 35,393 contracts changing hands. S&P 500 e-minis were down 11.25 points, or 0.55 percent, with 214,288 contracts traded. Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 22.75 points, or 0.52 percent, on volume of 22,350 contracts.

Data on Thursday showed durable goods orders fell 2.8 percent, less than the estimated 2.9 percent decline, while unemployment benefits rose less than expected to 265,000 last week.

Oil prices, which had recovered from a rout that sent both benchmarks to multi-year lows, fell below $40 a barrel as U.S. crude inventories touched record highs. [O/R]

Wall Street closed lower on Wednesday as a five-week rally, which had pushed the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones industrial average into positive territory for the year, lost momentum.

The market is likely to remain in a holding pattern until earnings season begins in April, Clark said.

The S&P was down 0.35 percent for the year, while the Dow held on to a small gain for 2016.

Range Resources shares were down 3.8 percent at $30 in premarket trading after Barclays downgraded the stock to “underweight.”

Staples was up 5.5 percent at $10.60 after a report said a U.S. judge rebuked the Federal Trade Commission’s legal tactics in the Staples and Office Depot merger case.

Reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva

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