February 22, 2018 / 2:13 PM / 8 months ago

US STOCKS-Wall St set for higher open; inflation worries remain

* U.S. jobless claims fall more than expected

* Bond yields ease from Wednesday’s peak

* Futures pick up after Bullard’s comment on rates

* Futures up: Dow 24 pts, S&P 8 pts, Nasdaq 21.75 pts (Adds comment, details, updates prices)

By Sruthi Shankar

Feb 22 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were higher on Thursday as bond yields eased off four-year highs, with traders taking stock of the Federal Reserve’s views on inflation.

Minutes of the January meeting showed on Wednesday the U.S. central bank’s rate-setting committee grew more confident in the need to keep raising rates, with most believing inflation would perk up.

But comments from St Louis Fed President James Bullard appeared to ease some of those concerns.

Bullard told CNBC on Thursday that central bankers need to be careful not to increase interest rates too quickly this year because that could slow the economy too much.

“Bullard made a comment on rates. That’s what has given the market a reason to see a little bit of a positive futures,” said Robert Pavlik, chief investment strategist at SlateStone Wealth in New York.

At 8:34 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 24 points. S&P 500 e-minis rose 8 points and Nasdaq 100 e-minis gained 21.75 points.

Stocks ended lower on Wednesday after the release of the minutes pushed yields on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note to a four-year high of 2.957 percent. They were last trading at 2.9134 percent.

Worries of rising inflation were at the heart of a stock market rout earlier this month. Stocks have, however, clawed back some of those losses, with the S&P 500 gaining in six of the past eight days.

Despite Fed’s hawkish views, bets in the U.S. short-term interest rate futures continued to reflect expectations of three rate hikes this year, based on a Reuters analysis.

Traders also gave a 94 percent chance that the first hike would come in March.

Economic data showed U.S. jobless claims fell more-than-expected to a near 45-year low last week.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 7,000 to a seasonally adjusted 222,000, the Labor Department said. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims unchanged at 230,000 in the latest week.

Chesapeake Energy’s shares rose more than 6 percent and were the most traded premarket after the company’s fourth-quarter profit topped analysts’ estimates.

Pandora Media gained 4.7 percent after the internet radio company reported quarterly revenue that topped Wall Street estimates as it added more subscribers.

Roku slid more than 19 percent after the TV streaming device maker forecast current-quarter revenue below estimates. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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