Futures Rise Ahead of Fed Statement

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures pointed to a stronger open Wednesday, the morning after President Obama called for a spending freeze and a lower corporate tax rate in his State of the Union address.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up by 22 points, or 16 points above fair value, at 11,944. Futures for the S&P 500 were higher by 5 points, or a little more than 5 points above fair value, at 1293, and Nasdaq futures were ahead by 9 points, or 8 points above fair value.

Stocks ended Tuesday's session in mixed territory as mixed earnings reports and an unexpected contraction in the U.K. largely overshadowed a spike in January consumer confidence.

During his State of the Union address late Tuesday, President Obama proposed increased investments in infrastructure and education, which would be covered by cuts elsewhere; a five-year freeze on discretionary spending and a lower corporate tax rate.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.2% while Japan's Nikkei shed 0.6%. London's FTSE was up 1.4% and the DAX in Frankfurt was ahead by 1.3%.

Boeing ( BA) saw its stock slump 3.2% to $69.93 ahead of Wednesday's opening bell, after it reported fourth-quarter earnings of $1.56 a share, which includes a favorable tax settlement. Analysts had been looking for a profit of $1.11 a share. The company also issued 2011 earnings guidance of $3.80 to $4 a share, which fell short of the $4.50 that analysts had forecast.

Members of the Federal Reserve's policy-making arm conclude their two-day meeting with the release of their rate decision statement at 2:15 p.m. EST. While economists expect the overnight lending rate to remain near zero, Joseph LaVorgna, Deutsche Bank chief U.S. economist, said the market will be "trying to glean any shift in sentiment as a result of either economic developments or the new rotation of voting members for 2011."
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke

At 10 a.m. , the Department of Commerce will release its report on December new-home sales. According to Briefing.com, economists expect sales to climb to 300,000, from 290,000, previously.

Elsewhere in equities, WellPoint ( WLP) reported adjusted earnings of $1.33 a share, topping estimates by 10 cents , and sending shares up 0.9% to $62.25 in early trading.

Shares of Valero Energy ( VLO) were up by 0.3% at $24.40 after the oil refining company met Wall Street's estimates with fourth-quarter earnings from continuing operations of 32 cents a share, and sales rose 24% to $22.2 billion from a year ago.

Shares of Yahoo! ( YHOO) were down 2.3% at $15.66 during premarket trading after the company topped fourth-quarter profit expectations but issued first-quarter revenue guidance that fell short of analysts' projections.

At 10:30 a.m., the Energy Information Administration will issue its weekly read on energy inventories. Analysts are anticipating an increase of 1.7 million barrels in crude oil supplies in the week ended Jan. 21, according to a Platts survey.

Late Tuesday, the American Petroleum Institute said crude stockpiles gained 2.12 million barrels.

The March crude oil contract was trading 63 cents higher at $86.82 a barrel.

Elsewhere in commodity markets, the February gold contract was up by $3.10 to trade at $1,335.40 an ounce.

The dollar weakened against a basket of currencies with the dollar index down by 0.1%. The benchmark 10-year Treasury fell 9/32, lifting the yield to 3.366%.

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--Written by Melinda Peer in New York.

Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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