* August retail sales drop more-than-expected
* Weekly jobless claims rise to 260,000 vs est. 265,000
* Apple rises on strong iPhone 7 Plus sales
* Futures up: Dow 36 pts, S&P 3.5 pts, Nasdaq 14.25 pts (Adds details, comments, updates prices)
By Yashaswini Swamynathan
Sept 15 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures trimmed gains, but kept Wall Street on track to open higher on Thursday, as investors assessed a mixed bag of economic data.
Data showed that retail sales fell more than expected in August amid weak purchases of automobiles and a range of other goods, pointing to cooling domestic demand.
A separate report showed the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose less than expected last week, pointing to a further tightening in labor market conditions.
“We’re right now in a Goldilocks economy. It’s not too hot, it’s not too cold. It’s just right to keep the Fed on the sidelines and keep interest rates right where they are,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.
Investors have been fretting over the possibility of a rate hike when the data-dependent Federal Reserve holds its policy-setting meeting next week, especially after contrasting comments from Fed officials in the past few days.
Traders slashed the odds of a hike in September to 9 percent from 15 percent after the data, and pushed down the chances of a December move to 46.2 percent from 52.8 percent, according to the CME Group’s FedWatch tool.
Dow e-minis were up 36 points, or 0.2 percent at 8:56 a.m. ET, with 39,820 contracts changing hands.
S&P 500 e-minis were up 3.5 points, or 0.15 percent, with 313,514 contracts traded.
Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 14.25 points, or 0.31 percent, on volume of 44,633 contracts.
Supporting futures was a near 1 percent rebound in oil prices, after two days of steep declines, following an unexpected drop in U.S. crude inventories.
Shares of Apple were up 1.5 percent in premarket trading, set for its fourth straight day of gains, after the company said the first batch of the iPhone 7 Plus sold out.
Aerie Pharmaceuticals soared more than 70 percent to $36.21 after its eye drug was successful in a trial.
Bluebird rose 4.15 percent to $65.50 after Goldman Sachs added the biotechnology company to its conviction list with a “buy” rating. (Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D‘Souza)