Stocks are looking up on the in-line

CPI

which just rolled in.

With the day's big inflation data out of the way, the market is now placing bets on the

Federal Open Market Committee's

interest-rate increase decision and any hints the FOMC might give to future rate plans when the meeting's minutes are released today at 2:15 p.m. EDT.

At 8:36 a.m. EDT, the

S&P 500 futures

were up 7.5 points, just over 6 points above fair value, indicating some positive sentiment for the early going. The

Nasdaq 100

futures had almost doubled earlier gains, up 70.2 points, indicating some strong buying pressure in large-cap technology stocks for the open.

The Treasury market hadn't budged on the data, and the 10-year note continued up 5/32 to 100 16/32 and yielding 6.427%.

At 8:30 a.m. EDT, the

Labor Department

announced that April's CPI figure came in unchanged, while the core number came in up 0.2%. The core number excludes the often-volatile food and energy sectors and gives a clearer picture of the underlying inflation trend.

Economists were expecting a CPI of 0.1% and a core of 0.2%, according to

Reuter's

consensus poll estimates.

Last month a 0.7% CPI and 0.4% core left indices in a smoldering heap on April 14 as they struck lows for the year.

There was some optimism already in the market that the economy had finally slowed, however, after April's

retail sales

and

Producer Price Index

numbers came in cooler than expected last week. These numbers sparked a straight three-day rally, albeit on nonexistent volume.

In any case, the Fed meeting is what everybody has been awaiting for weeks. Pretty much anybody who's anybody is expecting a 50-basis point rate increase today, and some doves hope that will be the end of rate-increase season.

If the Fed does issue a 50-basis point rate increase and if the FOMC meeting's minutes provide any indication that it could be the year's last, the three-day rally could turn into a four-day jubilee, and even send the bears back into hibernation. Still, some say, three days of rallying may mean that this jubilee has already been priced into the market.

In company news today,

Unilever

(UN) - Get Report

announced it's not going to launch a hostile offer for

BestFoods

(BFO) - Get Report

.

And on today's earnings slate, stalwarts

Home Depot

(HD) - Get Report

and

Hewlett-Packard

(HWP)

will be reporting.

Most major

Asian markets closed higher overnight on hopes that a 50-basis point rate increase today would be the Fed's last this year.

The

Hang Seng

index climbed 278.99 points, or 1.9%, to 15,160.29,

Korea's

Kospi

index rose 18.10, or 2.5%, to 746.77, and Taiwan's

TWSE

index gained 262.80, or 3.1%, to 8727.82.

In Tokyo, the

Nikkei

index rose 237.56 points, or 1.4%, to 17,551.25.

The dollar rose narrowly against the yen fetching 109.03 yen in Tokyo trading. Lately it was higher at 108.98 yen.

For a look at stocks in the preopen news, see

Stocks to Watch, published separately.