Here are 10 things you should know for Wednesday, Dec. 18:
1.-- U.S. stock futures were pointing to gains for Wall Street on Wednesday as markets worldwide awaited a decision from the Federal Reserve on when the central bank will begin reducing U.S. monetary stimulus.
European stocks were advancing in early trading Wednesday. Asian shares ended the session mostly higher. Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 2%.
Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will give his final quarterly news conference on Wednesday. His second four-year term as chairman ends Jan. 31, with Vice Chair Janet Yellen likely to succeed him.
2.-- The economic calendar in the U.S. Wednesday includes housing starts and building permits for November at 8:30 a.m. EST. The rates decision from the Federal Open Market Committee is expected at 12:30 p.m.
3.-- U.S. stocks on Tuesday slipped as Wall Street gauged possible outcomes of the two-day Fed meeting.
The S&P 500 fell 0.3% to close at 1,781.00, the Nasdaq declined 0.15% to 4,023.68 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.06% to 15,875.26.
4.-- The Justice Department is preparing to file civil fraud charges against Citigroup (C) and Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAC) over their sale of flawed mortgage securities ahead of the financial crisis, Reuters reported, citing people familiar with the probes.
Evidence allegedly shows that investors lost tens of billions of dollars after purchasing securities Citigroup had marketed as safe even though the bank had reason to believe otherwise, one person told Reuters.
An investigation into the mortgage securities marketed by Merrill Lynch, which Bank of America purchased in 2008 at the height of the financial crisis, also is close to completion, two other people told Reuters.
There also are probes underway against Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Credit Suisse (CS), Reuters reported.
5.-- Meg Whitman, CEO of struggling personal computer and printer maker Hewlett-Packard (HPQ - Get Report), is getting an annual pay raise to $1.5 million from the symbolic $1 she agreed to during her first two years on the job.
HP said the pay hike makes Whitman's salary comparable to what CEOs of similar-sized companies make. Whitman is HP's third CEO in four years.
Annual revenue at HP has fallen by 12% over the past two years as PC sales have declined amid a consumer shift to smartphones and tablets. HP shares have risen by 20% since Whitman the CEO job.
6.-- FedEx (FDX - Get Report) is expected by Wall Street on Wednesday to post fiscal second-quarter earnings of $1.64 a share on revenue of $11.43 billion.
Investors will be keying on any demand forecasts from the shipping giant for the holiday season.
Last year, FedEx posted earnings of $438 million, or $1.39 a share. Superstorm Sandy hurt results in 2012 as shipping volume fell and costs rose.
7.-- Oracle (ORCL), the enterprise software maker, is forecast to report fiscal second-quarter profit of 67 cents a share on sales of $9.19 billion.
A year earlier, Oracle reported earnings of 64 cents a share on revenue of $9.11 billion.
Revenue at Oracle has missed analysts' estimates in its last three quarters.
8.-- JPMorgan Chase (JPM) was sued by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, who accused the bank of violating state consumer protection laws in its alleged pursuit of delinquent payments by credit card customers, according to a Reuters report.
The lawsuit followed a probe of 18 months, according to Hood, and adds to a long list of legal problems facing the largest U.S. bank, Reuters said.
9.-- The initial public offering of movie theater chain AMC Entertainment Holdings was priced on Tuesday at $18 a share, the low end of the company's estimated price range.
Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group will retain an 80% stake in AMC following the IPO, which valued AMC at about $1.7 billion.
AMC will begin trading Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange under symbol "AMC."
10.-- The two winning Mega Millions tickets were sold in California and Georgia, lottery officials said Wednesday.
The $636 million jackpot was the second-largest lottery prize in U.S. history.
The winning numbers were: 8, 14, 17, 20, 39; Mega Ball: 7.
-- Written by Joseph Woelfel
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