* Retail sales top expectations for October
* Baker Hughes confirms merger talks with Halliburton
* Geron jumps on licensing deal with Johnson & Johnson
* Futures up: Dow 7 pts, S&P 0.5 pt, Nasdaq 0.75 pt (Adds data, updates prices)
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, Nov 14 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index were set to open little changed on Friday, with the S&P on track for a fourth straight weekly advance, after data on retail sales and ahead of a report on consumer sentiment.
The Dow industrials closed at a record high on Thursday, boosted by gains in Wal-Mart, but the S&P 500 was little changed as energy shares tracked crude futures prices lower.
Overall retail sales, which account for about one-third of consumer spending, climbed 0.3 percent in October, topping expectations for a 0.2 percent increase.
Other data showed U.S. import prices fell in September by the most in more than two years as the cost of petroleum products declined and a strong dollar made it cheaper for Americans to buy goods from abroad.
“The fall in gasoline prices is absolutely what the doctor ordered and I would be surprised if the holiday season wasn’t better than expected as a result of that,” said John De Clue, chief investment officer at U.S. Bank Wealth Management in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
While the Dow and S&P have continued to set record highs, recent gains have been modest, with the S&P 500 yet to post a gain of at least 1 percent this month.
“This is a market that has something for everyone but there are still a lot of people on the sidelines that are skeptical,” said De Clue.
S&P 500 e-mini futures were up 0.5 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 flat open. Dow Jones industrial average e-mini futures rose 7 points and Nasdaq 100 e-mini futures added 0.25 point.
The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan preliminary November reading on consumer sentiment is expected later in the session at 9:55 a.m. (1355 GMT.) Expectations call for a reading of 87.5 versus the final October reading of 86.9.
The S&P 500 is up 0.4 percent for the week and has rallied 9.5 percent from a six-month low in October, buoyed by supportive economic data and corporate earnings. For the year so far, it is up 10.3 percent.
Baker Hughes gained 5.4 percent to $61.90 in premarket trade. The oilfield services company said it was in preliminary merger talks with its larger rival Halliburton Co , which was up 3.9 percent to $55.90.
Geron Corp surged 35.5 percent to $3.13 before the opening bell after it licensed its cancer compound to a Johnson & Johnson unit for up to $935 million.
Editing by Bernadette Baum