US STOCKS-Futures flat as rate hike expectations firm
* Futures up: Dow 18 pts, S&P 0.5 pts, Nasdaq 5 pts
By Yashaswini Swamynathan
May 31 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were little changed on Tuesday as investors digested the possibility of an interest rate hike in the coming months and awaited data for clues regarding the strength of the economy.
* Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on Friday pointed at improvement in the economy and a strong labor market, and she said a rate hike in the coming months would likely be appropriate.
* Yellen's comments come after months of uncertainty on the Fed's stance on rates swayed the markets, especially worrying investors after the first quarter started on a weak note.
* Her comments helped Wall Street close higher on Friday, capping off its strongest week since March. The benchmark S&P 500 index has risen about 1.6 percent in May and is set to record its third straight month of gains. U.S. markets were closed on Monday for the Memorial Day holiday.
* Traders raised their expectations of a rate hike in June to 28 percent after Yellen's speech, from just over 4 percent at the start of May, according to CME Group's FedWatch tool.
* St. Louis Fed President James Bullard said on Monday that global markets appear to be "well-prepared" for a summer rate hike, although he did not specify a date for the policy move. The Fed next meets on June 14-15.
* Data due Tuesday is expected to show consumer spending, the Fed's preferred measure of inflation, likely rose 0.2 percent in April, compared with a 0.1 percent increase in March. The Fed's inflation rate target is 2 percent. Continuación...