US STOCKS-Wall Street to open little changed, data supports

Last Updated: Thu, Jun 13, 2013 15:10 hrs

* Global markets bruised by stimulus worries

* Retail sales surprisingly strong, jobless claims fall

* Gannett jumps on news it will buy Belo

* Futures up: Dow 9 pts, S&P 3.3 pts, Nasdaq 5.75 pts

By Leah Schnurr

NEW YORK, June 13 (Reuters) - Wall Street was set to open little changed as encouraging economic data offset concerns over the eventual winding down of central bank stimulus that has propelled a rally in the U.S. equity market this year.

The softness in futures followed a slump in stocks globally. Investors are trying to gauge when central banks around the world - and particularly the Federal Reserve - will pull back on their accommodative monetary policy.

But economic data at home provided support and helped futures trim declines after retail sales rose more than expected in May, while a drop in jobless claims last week pointed to a labor market that is healing.

Merger and acquisition activity buoyed investor optimism as Gannett jumped after saying it will buy Belo for $1.5 billion. Gannett was up 23.7 percent at $24.55, while Belo climbed 27.2 percent to $13.65.

Comments from Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke last month stoked worries that the central bank could slow its $85 billion a month bond purchase program sooner than expected. Investors were looking to the Fed's policy-setting committee meeting next week for clarity on how soon the Fed will end its stimulus measures.

Nervousness over the withdrawal of economic support was exacerbated earlier this week when the Bank of Japan held its monetary policy steady, and investors have been unwinding some of the trades built around central bank support. The benchmark S&P 500 has advanced 13 percent so far this year.

"The easy money helped us on the way up. The concern is mounting it's going to end," said Andre Bakhos, director of market analytics at Lek Securities in New York.

"The action has been choppy and erratic," said Bakhos. "It's a case of investors looking to limit exposure ahead of next week's Fed meeting."

S&P 500 futures trimmed earlier losses to gain 3.3 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 9 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 5.75 points.

Still, the World Bank cut its outlook for global growth amid a deeper-than-expected recession in Europe and slowdown in some emerging markets. The bank forecast the world's gross domestic product will grow 2.2 percent this year, down from its previous forecast of 2.4 percent growth and slightly below last year's growth of 2.3 percent.

Safeway shares surged more than 20 percent after Empire said it would buy Safeway's assets in Canada for $5.7 billion. Safeway was up 20.5 percent at $27.85 in premarket trading.

Clearwire Corp's board urged shareholders to accept a tender offer from Dish Network Corp over an earlier deal with majority owner Sprint Nextel Corp to buy out the minority shareholders of the wireless service provider.

Apple Inc is exploring launching iPhones with bigger screens, as well as cheaper models in a range of colors, over the next year, sources said.

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