Stock Futures Rise Ahead of Fed Decision

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures were pointing to a higher open on Wall Street as investors awaited the Federal Reserve's latest monetary policy decision and economic outlook.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 11 points, or 44.56 points above fair value, at 13,289. Futures for the S&P 500 were up 1.50 points, or 6.21 points above fair value, at 1433. Futures for the Nasdaq were up 6.50 points, or 12.08 points above fair value, at 2692.

Economists anticipate the Fed will announce Wednesday 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. The new program would be launched after Operation Twist expires at the end of the year.

"Other than the new purchase program, we do not anticipate any significant changes to the FOMC statement," noted Jim O'Sullivan, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics. "While officials could move a step toward 'outcomes-based' guidance on the funds rate -- from 'calendar-based' -- the evolution is more likely to be reflected in the Fed's economic projections than in the post-meeting statement."

"The two-day FOMC meeting ends today, with the Fed widely expected to replace its expiring Operation Twist with an expansion of its QE3 purchases ... Rather than using a fixed calendar date, the Fed could also switch to framing its commitment to leave short rates at near zero in terms of numerical thresholds for the unemployment rate and inflation," said Paul Ashworth, economist at Capital Economics.

However, he suspected it could take a bit longer to reach a consensus agreement on such a switch; and if that change does occur, it probably wouldn't take place until sometime next year.

The Fed is expected to keep the U.S. benchmark interest rate in a target range of zero percent to 0.25%.

The Federal Open Market Committee -- the Federal Reserve's rate-setting arm, is expected to announce its rate decision at 12:30 p.m. EST, followed by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's press conference and the release of policymakers' forecasts at 2:15 p.m.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said Wednesday that import prices for the U.S. declined by 0.9% in November, falling for the first time in fourth months as crude oil prices fell.

The FTSE 100 in London was up 0.27% and the DAX in Germany was rising 0.42% ahead of the FOMC announcement and as Greek debt buyback efforts appeared to have progressed, potentially helping to push the country closer to receiving its next tranche of financial aid.

Japan's Nikkei average closed up 0.59% on Wednesday and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index settled up by 0.8%.

Gold for February delivery was rising $5.30 at $1,714.90 an ounce at the Comex division of the New York Mercantile Exchange, while January crude oil contracts were up 46 cents at $86.25 a barrel.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was falling 4/32, pushing the yield up to 1.671%. The dollar was down 0.10%, according to the U.S. dollar index.

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

Costco shares were up more than 1% in premarket trading.

Sprint Nextel ( S) is in talks with Intel ( INTC) and Comcast ( CMCSA) to buy out their stakes in Clearwire ( CLWR), the U.S. wireless provider, Reuters reported, citing two people familiar with the matter.

Clearwire shares were rising more than 2% and Intel shares were up 0.48%.

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

Shares were tumbling more than 7%.

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.

The buyer of the assets, which are located primarily in the Marcellus, Utica, Eagle Ford, Haynesville and Niobrara shale plays located throughout the continental U.S., is Access Midstream Partners L.P.

Chesapeake shares were up more than 1%.

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

Shares were up incrementally.

Joy Global ( JOY) posted fiscal fourth-quarter adjusted earnings of $2.05 a share on revenue of $1.6 billion; analysts were expecting earnings of $1.91 a share on revenue of $1.42 billion. Joy Global said it expected lower volumes for 2013.

Shares were trading sideways.

Research In Motion ( RIMM) was a gainer in premarket trading on Wednesday, as the handset maker continues its momentum ahead of its BlackBerry 10 launch next month.

Shares were up 0.95%.

DuPont ( DD) shares were up nearly 3% after the chemical company announced a $1 billion share buyback plan and boosted its full-year profit guidance to the high end of the previously estimated range.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.

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