Morning Briefing: 10 Things You Should Know

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures were straddling the flat-line Wednesday ahead of a widely expected announcement from the Federal Reserve of a new bond-buying program.

It's widely anticipated the central bank will announce a $40 billion to $45 billion a month Treasury purchase program targeted on longer-dated Treasuries, expanding total purchases per month, including mortgage-backed securities, to $85 billion.

European stocks were trading mixed while Asian shares ended Wednesday's session with slight gains despite North Korea's latest test launch of a long-range rocket. Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 0.6% to 9,581.46

In addition to the Fed announcement Wednesday afternoon, the economic calendar in the U.S. includes import and export prices at 8:30 a.m. EST.

U.S. stocks on Tuesday held onto gains despite a final-hour scare by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's comments on the so-called fiscal cliff.

Stocks initially were buoyed by confidence over fiscal-cliff negotiations and an upbeat economy in Germany, Europe's largest nation. But Reid emerged Tuesday afternoon to tell reporters that he believed it would be "extremely difficult" for legislators to reach a deal to avoid the cliff before Christmas.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 79 points, or 0.6%, on Tuesday to close at 13,248.

Costco Wholesale ( COST), the warehouse retailer, said Wednesday that fiscal first-quarter profit jumped 30% as sales and membership fees rose.

Molycorp ( MCP), the rare-earth mining company, said Tuesday its president and CEO, Mark Smith, resigned.

Chesapeake Energy ( CHK) will sell most of its remaining midstream assets for $2.16 billion as it sells off assets to pay off a heavy debt load.

Facebook ( FB) is to replace Infosys ( INFY) on the Nasdaq-100 before trading opens Wednesday.

Joy Global ( JOY) is expected by analysts Wednesday to post fiscal fourth-quarter earnings of $1.91 a share on revenue of $1.42 billion.

-- Written by Joseph Woelfel

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Copyright 2012 Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.

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