US STOCKS-Futures up ahead of data; Dow, S&P set for new highs
* Empire state manufacturing, industrial production on tap
* Bank shares may be in spotlight after Moody's downgrade
* Futures up: Dow 26 pts, S&P 3.3 pts, Nasdaq 9.5 pts
NEW YORK, Nov 15 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures edged higher on Friday ahead of a batch of economic reports, setting up the Dow and S&P 500 indexes for fresh record highs.
* U.S. equities rallied on Thursday, with the S&P 500 ending just 10 points away from 1,800, following a robust defense of monetary stimulus from Janet Yellen, who will take over at the helm of the U.S. Federal Reserve early next year.
* Data due to be released Friday include the Empire State manufacturing survey for November, import and export prices and industrial production figures for October and wholesale trade for September.
* No major S&P 500 companies are due to report earnings.
* Bank shares could be in the spotlight after Moody's Investors Service cut the long-term debt ratings of Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs Group Inc, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Bank of New York Mellon Corp by one notch late Thursday, concluding that the government wouldn't bail out the institutions if they fail.
* Top U.S. hedge fund managers in the third quarter zoned in on the consumer sector, with investment plays ranging from luxury auction house Sotheby's to struggling department store chain J.C. Penney Co.
* S&P 500 futures rose 3.3 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 26 points and Nasdaq 100 futures added 9.5 points.
* The Dow and the S&P 500 index ended at new highs on Thursday after comments from Janet Yellen, the U.S. Federal Reserve Chair nominee, suggested the Fed's accommodative policies would continue as long as the economy remains fragile.
* European shares rose back towards five-year highs on Friday, buoyed by prospects for a further dose of accommodative central bank policies that were tipped to keep the equity rally on track.