May 26, 2016 / 1:02 PM / 2 years ago

US STOCKS-Wall St set to open higher on strong economic data

* April durable goods numbers soar

* Oil prices move above $50 a barrel

* Abercrombie slumps after sales fall for 13th straight quarter

* Futures up: Dow 32 pts, S&P 2.75 pts, Nasdaq 6.50 pts (Adds details, comment, updates prices)

By Ankur Banerjee

May 26 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were set to open higher on Thursday, after the S&P 500 posted its strongest two-day run since early March, as a set of economic data pointed to a strengthening economy.

Orders for U.S. durable goods, which include items ranging from toasters to aircraft, surged in April on strong demand for transportation equipment and a range of other products.

Another piece of data showed the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell more than expected last week as the economy regains momentum after stumbling in the first quarter.

Comments from policymakers in recent days and upbeat U.S. economic data have raised expectations that the Federal Reserve could pull the trigger on a rate increase much sooner than previously thought.

Traders are now pricing in a 32 percent chance of a rate hike in June, up from just 4 percent early last week, according to CME Group’s FedWatch tool.

“Markets are becoming more comfortable with a rate hike in June or July,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial in New York.

“The market will be looking for some direction from Yellen. If she’s more hawkish you could see the market changing direction.”

All eyes will be on Fed Chair Janet Yellen on Friday, when she speaks at Harvard University.

Oil topped the psychologically important $50 a barrel on Thursday, as a global supply glut showed signs of easing.

S&P 500 e-minis were up 2.75 points, or 0.13 percent, with 147,658 contracts traded at 8:38 a.m. ET (1238 GMT). Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 6.5 points, or 0.15 percent, on volume of 19,460 contracts. Dow e-minis were up 32 points, or 0.18 percent, with 21,689 contracts changing hands.

Wall Street rose robustly for a second straight session on Wednesday, helped by higher oil prices and investors becoming more comfortable with the prospect of an interest rate hike as early as next month.

St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard said on Thursday that U.S. labor markets are relatively tight and may put upward pressure on inflation.

Federal Reserve Board Governor Jerome Powell, a permanent voter on the Fed’s rate-setting committee, is scheduled to speak later on Thursday.

Discount retailers Dollar General and Dollar Tree rose after both companies reported better-than-expected profit.

Abercrombie & Fitch shares fell 11.5 percent to $22.25 after posting its 13th straight quarter of sales decline, becoming another example of a depressed apparel market. (Reporting by Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Mamidipudi Soumithri; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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