(For a Reuters live blog on U.S., UK and European stock markets, click or type LIVE/ in a news window.)

* Consumer prices rise less than expected in April; core CPI slows

* Retail sales flat in April

* NYCB gains on $5 bln mortgage warehouse loan sale

* Futures up: Dow 0.35%, S&P 0.44%, Nasdaq 0.41%

May 15 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures advanced on Wednesday after a lower-than-expected increase in a key inflation metric bolstered hopes of interest rate cuts from the Federal Reserve this year.

The consumer price index (CPI) gained 0.3% in April, a Labor Department report showed, compared with a 0.4% increase expected by economists polled by Reuters and a 0.4% rise in March.

Excluding the volatile food and energy components, the CPI rose 0.3% in April after advancing 0.4% in March.

"What the data does for the Fed is it establishes the first in what they are going to need to be a series of softer CPI reports for them to be able to cut later this year," said Jason Pride, chief of investment strategy and research at Glenmede.

"If there were concerns that they weren't going to cut at all, this just alleviated some of those concerns."

After the data, traders slightly raised bets the Fed will cut its policy rate in September and again in December.

Separately, a report from the Commerce Department showed retail sales were unexpectedly flat in April after advancing 0.7% in March.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq notched a fresh record closing high on Tuesday after Fed Chair Jerome Powell's assessment of U.S. growth and inflation reassured investors as they digested hotter-than-expected producer prices for April.

Stocks have rallied so far this year on better-than-expected earnings for the first quarter and expectations that the Fed will be able to cool inflation without badly hurting growth and eventually transition to cutting interest rates.

The benchmark S&P 500 is whiskers away from a record high, while the blue-chip Dow is also set to breach the 40,000-mark for the first time.

At 08:44 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 139 points, or 0.35%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 23.25 points, or 0.44%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 75.25 points, or 0.41%.

Most rate-sensitive megacap growth and technology stocks rose in premarket trading, with Tesla leading gains.

Retail investor darling GameStop fell 11.8%, set to snap this week's rally that was driven by "Roaring Kitty" Keith Gill, a central figure behind the 2021 meme stock frenzy, posting on social media platform X.

Other meme stocks also cut earlier gains, with AMC Entertainment turning 10.7% lower.

Shares of New York Community Bancorp rose 3.8% after the embattled lender said on Tuesday it had agreed to sell about $5 billion in mortgage warehouse loans to JPMorgan Chase . (Reporting by Bansari Mayur Kamdar and Shristi Achar A in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Ankika Biswas; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Devika Syamnath)