* Kansas Fed President calls for rates hikes
* Fed Chair Janet Yellen due to speak on Friday
* Weekly jobless claims drop to 261,000 vs est 265,000s
* Futures down: Dow 43 pts, S&P 4 pts, Nasdaq 8.5 pts (Adds details, comments, updates prices)
By Yashaswini Swamynathan
Aug 25 (Reuters) - Wall Street was set to open lower on Thursday as investors treaded water ahead of Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s speech at a gathering of central bankers that could paint a clearer picture on interest rates hikes.
Yellen addresses the annual meeting at Jackson Hole, Wyoming on Friday at 10:00 a.m. ET (1400 GMT).
Kansas City Fed President Esther George on Thursday added to the hawkish tone set by key policymakers, including fellow voting member and New York Fed Chief William Dudley.
“I do think it is time to move that rate ... It doesn’t mean I think that needs to happen rapidly. I agree (with) a gradual move in these rates,” George said in an interview with CNBC.
While a rate hike is not widely expected at the Fed’s September meeting, investors will watch Yellen’s language to assess whether she takes a more aggressive stance.
Traders saw an 18 percent chance of a rate hike in September and about 55 percent for December, according to CME Group’s FedWatch program.
“I think the Fed is going to come out with a lot of words, but nothing is going to be changed,” said James Abate, chief investment officer at Centre Funds.
Dow e-minis were down 43 points at 8:30 a.m. ET, or 0.23 percent, with 18,389 contracts changing hands.
S&P 500 e-minis were down 4 points, or 0.18 percent, with 170,776 contracts traded.
Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 8.5 points, or 0.18 percent, on volume of 23,106 contracts.
Data on Thursday showed the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, suggesting the labor market was continuing to gain momentum.
New orders for manufactured capital goods rose for a second straight month in July, offering a tentative sign that a business spending downturn was starting to ease.
Wall Street closed lower on Wednesday, albeit in thin trading, weighed down by healthcare and materials stocks.
Shares of Mylan rose 3.7 percent to $44.74 in premarket trading after the drugmaker said it would offer discounts to reduce patient cost for its severe allergy treatment drug EpiPen.
Tiffany rose 4.1 percent to $71.70 after the company reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit.
Workday jumped 8.5 percent to $86.40 after the maker of human resources software reported a 34 percent rise in quarterly sales. (Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D‘Souza)