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US STOCKS-Wall Street set to inch higher, 'meme' stocks extend rally

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* Campbell Soup falls after profit misses estimates

* Clover Health’s surge continues

* Merck rises as govt looks to buy COVID treatment

* Futures: Dow flat, S&P up 0.2%, Nasdaq up 0.3% (Adds comment, updates prices)

June 9 (Reuters) - U.S. stock indexes were set to open slightly higher on Wednesday, although a lack of clear catalysts kept trading slow, with investors awaiting fresh cues from inflation data this week and an upcoming Federal Reserve meeting.

Buying into so-called “meme stocks” by small-time retail investors continued, with the new social media favorite Clover Health surging 21.4% in premarket trade after jumping 85% to a record high on Tuesday.

GameStop - the company most closely associated with the retail rally this year - rose 1% ahead of its quarterly results, due after the bell.

“It is going to be consistent and the participation is good, but there remains a risk of high speculation and market manipulation within these meme stocks,” said Rob Sechan, managing partner and co-founder of NewEdge Wealth.

Major bank stocks including Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Morgan Stanley fell between 0.2 and 0.7% as U.S. Treasury yields hit a more than one-month low.

Small gains in heavyweight technology stocks, particularly the FAANG group of firms, were set to give the Nasdaq a slight boost.

But Wall Street indexes have moved little this week amid a dearth of cues, with most investors sticking to the sidelines ahead of key inflation data on Thursday.

“I think we are going to remain in a grinding pattern for a bit with investors trying to figure out if inflation is to be more persistent or more transient,” NewEdge Wealth’s Sechan said.

The Fed’s meeting next week is also expected to shed more light on the bank’s policy tapering plans. While inflation has surged in recent months, a sluggish labor market is broadly expected to keep the bank dovish.

S&P 500 E-minis were up 0.16% at 4,232.5 points at 08:13 a.m. ET. Dow E-minis were up 1 point, while Nasdaq 100 E-minis were up 44.5 points, or 0.32%.

A strong earnings season had seen Wall Street surging to record highs through May, with analysts suggesting markets had taken a pause in recent weeks after the gains.

U.S.-listed Chinese stocks showed little reaction to a sweeping package of legislation intended to bolster the United States’ capability to compete with Chinese technology, even as the move drew some criticism from China.

Campbell Soup Co fell 8% after it reported profit below expectations, and slashed its full-year earnings forecast due to higher costs.

Drugmaker Merck & Co rose 0.7% after it said the U.S. government had agreed to buy about 1.7 million courses of the company’s experimental COVID-19 treatment, molnupiravir, for about $1.2 billion, if it is authorized in the country. (Reporting by Ambar Warrick in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)

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