* May consumer prices rise most in two years
* Weekly jobless claims fall more than expected
* First-qtr current account deficit widens
* Oracle falls after forecast disappoints
* Futures up: Dow 66 pts, S&P 6 pts, Nasdaq 15 pts (Adds details, comment, updates prices)
By Tanya Agrawal
June 18 (Reuters) - Wall Street was set to rise at the open, a day after the Federal Reserve said the U.S. economy is likely strong enough to withstand an interest rate hike later this year but hinted that the pace of a hike will be slower that expected.
The Fed cut its economic growth forecasts for 2015 because of a weak start to the year. Even if a majority of Fed officials continue to see higher rates by the end of 2015, they expect rates to rise slightly less by the end of 2016 and 2017 than they did in their March forecasts.
In a press conference following the end of the Fed’s two-day policy meeting on Wednesday, Fed Chair Janet Yellen said she wanted “more decisive evidence” that labor markets were healing, and that wages would increase beyond their current “subdued pace.”
Yellen added that the Fed remains data-dependent, which will prompt investors to keep a sharper eye on the data in the coming months, especially on the monthly employment report.
“If we see the kind of jobs data that we saw last month, that would keep the Fed on path to raise rates once in September and may be again in December,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Securities in New York.
The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week, pointing to a tightening labor market. Jobless claims dropped 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 267,000 for the week ended June 13.
U.S. consumer prices in May recorded their largest increase in more than two years as gasoline prices surged. The Consumer Price Index rose 0.4 percent last month after gaining 0.1 percent in April.
However, the U.S. current account deficit widened in the first quarter to its highest level since 2012 likely due to the strong dollar’s drag on overseas profits and exports. The current account deficit increased 9.9 percent to $113.3 billion.
S&P 500 e-minis were up 6 points, or 0.29 percent, with 59,220 contracts traded at 8:45 a.m. ET (1245 GMT). Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 15 points, or 0.34 percent, on volume of 3,215 contracts while Dow e-minis were up 66 points, or 0.37 percent, with 7,375 contracts changing hands.
Greece continues to weigh on investors’ minds as the country drifts closer to a default. Euro zone finance ministers meet later in the day, but expectations are low that Athens and its international creditors will reach a deal to prevent the cash-strapped country from defaulting at the end of the month.
Oracle shares fell 6 percent to $42.21 in premarket trading, a day after the company forecast quarterly profit below analysts’ estimates.
Rite Aid was down 3.7 percent at $8.59 after the No. 3 U.S. drugstore chain operator reported slower-than-expected quarterly same-store sales growth as the introduction of new generic drugs hurt pharmacy sales.
Kroger, rose 2.6 percent to $74.78 after the biggest U.S. supermarket operator reported a rise in quarterly profit. (Reporting by Tanya Agrawal; Editing by Don Sebastian)