* Brent crude hits 26-month low on weak China data
* Futures: Dow flat, S&P down 1 pt, Nasdaq up 0.5 point
By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK, Sept 15 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were set to open little changed on Monday as traders gauged the effect of tumbling crude oil prices, with the energy sector falling but bullish outlooks for retail and other consumer stocks.
Brent crude oil fell to its lowest in more than two years, below $97 per barrel, weighed by a strong U.S. dollar and data showing China’s factory output grew at the weakest pace in nearly six years in August.
A further decline in crude oil prices will likely weigh on stocks as the energy sector of the S&P 500 continues to struggle, down 8 percent from its record set 12 weeks ago.
“On one hand, it is negative for energy stocks but very positive for the consumer and for retail stocks,” said Rick Meckler, president of LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey, about falling oil prices.
He said the trend could also help keep interest rates low for longer as it keeps a lid on inflation.
S&P 500 e-mini futures were down less than a point and fair value - a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract - indicated a slightly lower open. Dow Jones industrial average e-mini futures were unchanged and Nasdaq 100 e-mini futures added less than a point.
Yahoo was the most traded stock on the Nasdaq in premarket action as traders looked for ways to step in front of Alibaba Group’s IPO-BABA.N debut, expected on the NYSE later this week.
Alibaba’s could be the largest initial public offer in history and has seen “overwhelming” interest, meaning Yahoo’s 23 percent stake could be worth more next week than it is now. Yahoo stock was up 1.7 percent with 1.9 million shares already traded.
“The Alibaba IPO is going to have a big effect, drawing money out of some stocks, and how it performs can help say a lot about the tech sector,” LibertyView’s Meckler said.
Stocks active early on Monday include Molson Coors, up 8.3 percent at $77.75 after the Wall Street Journal reported that No. 1 brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev was talking to banks about financing a possible $122 billion takeover bid of SABMiller.
The report comes a day after Dutch brewer Heineken said it was approached by SABMiller about a potential takeover. (Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Nick Zieminski)