Finally, the Federal Reserve's decision is at hand. What decision is that? The one on rates, of course. After several days of listening to prognosticators go on and on about what it all means, investors will at last get some answers. The Fed will wrap up its two-day meeting Wednesday, and around 2:15 p.m. EDT it will announce whether it has reduced its fed funds target rate for the second time in as many months. Most analysts and economists are looking for a cut of 25 basis points, which would take the fed funds rate -- the rate used by banks to charge interest on overnight loans to other financial institutions -- to 4.50%. Last month, the Fed lowered rates by 50 basis points in a move meant to make sure this summer's subprime crisis didn't derail the economy, but many market participants are hoping that wasn't the last cut. That's not all, though, because the economic calendar is full in the early part of the day. The Commerce Department will release its first report of three on third-quarter gross domestic product, and the Chicago purchasing managers' index is also on the schedule. Additionally, numbers are due on construction spending from the Census Bureau, the employment cost index from the Labor Department and petroleum inventories for the week ended Oct. 26, from the Energy Department.
Quarterly earnings are expected from Alcatel-Lucent ( ALU), Clorox ( CLX), Garmin ( GRMN), Hess ( HES), Kraft Foods ( KFT), MasterCard ( MA) and Newmont Mining ( NEM) during the morning. Barrick Gold ( ABX), Crocs ( CROX), JDSU ( JDSU), MetLife ( MET) and Prudential ( PRU) are anticipated following the close. On TheStreet.com, analyst Richard Widows says you shouldn't let the recent headlines about quantitative hedge funds scare you. He says there are a number of mutual funds that produce steady, positive performances, largely with the help of quantitative models, and he'll take you through the options. Also, while financial planning experts routinely advise saving the equivalent of three to six months of living expenses in the event of a job loss or illness, contributing writer Suzanne Barlyn says you don't have to be so serious all the time. She'll explain why planning ahead also includes enjoying a few perks in life that may become unaffordable or undoable when troubles arise.