Stock Futures Gain on Fed Open Market Minutes

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures pointing to a third day of gains for the S&P 500 after the early release of minutes from the Federal Reserve's March monetary policy and the unveiling of details of President Barack Obama's $3.8 trillion budget proposal.

The March Federal Open Market Committee meeting minutes were released at 9 a.m. EDT instead of 2 p.m. after they were reportedly unintentionally released to some people.

The minutes showed that "all but a few" policymakers thought that it would be appropriate for the Committee to continue its $85 billion a month bond-buying program at least through midyear.

Futures for the S&P 500 were up 3.75 points, or 3.94 points above fair value, to 1,567. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were rising 35 points, or 40.54 points above fair value, to 14,645.The index posted a new closing high on Tuesday on prospects companies will post first-quarter earnings that meet or beat expectations.

"First quarter earnings will test the resiliency of the stock market that reached an all-time high at the end of March. The big question is: will profit margins continue to rise," Mark Kravietz, managing director and partner of HighTower's Melville, New York-based MK Wealth Management said in an email. "There is a possibility that technology and healthcare can have earnings surprises on the upside."

"Historically May has been a challenging month for the markets as flows into retirement accounts start to diminish," he added.

Futures for the Nasdaq were up 9.75 points, or 9.28 points above fair value, to 2,807.25.

Yahoo! ( YHOO) and Apple ( AAPL) have been discussing how more of Yahoo!'s services can play a prominent role on Apple's iPhone and iPad devices, people briefed on the matter told The Wall Street Journal. Yahoo was rising 1.97% to $24.30 in premarket trading.

IBM ( IBM) was rising 1.15% to $211.62 after the computer services giant was upgraded to "buy" from "neutral" by UBS analysts who say that the company is well positioned to be a winner in "IT-as-a-service" given IBM's strength in private cloud services.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to release the details of his 2014 budget plan at 11:15 a.m. EDT, two months after the Feb. 4 deadline after Democrats and Republicans hit an impasse over taxes and spending.

"While we are somewhat optimistic on the prospects of a budget deal being reached, the fight over key entitlement programs and additional taxes could make this process difficult," Gennadiy Goldberg, a U.S. Strategist at TD Securities, wrote in a note.

International markets were broadly higher as China's imports grew 14.1% in March, much more than the 5.2% growth expected by economists and against a drop of 15.2% in February, calming worries about Chinese demand. In Japan, excitement over aggressive easing measures persisted. A successful Italian bond auction was also bolstering investor confidence.

The FTSE 100 in the U.K. was rising 0.83% and the DAX in Germany was ahead by 1.07%. The Nikkei 225 in Japan finished up 0.73% Wednesday, while the Hong Kong Hang Seng index closed up 0.75%.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was falling 2/32, boosting the yield to 1.762%. The dollar was up 0.03% to $82.34 according to the U.S. dollar index.

May crude oil futures off 56 cents to $93.64 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Health Management Associates ( HMA), the hospital operator, forecast first-quarter results below analysts' expectations and reduced its outlook for 2013 as admissions fell at its hospitals. The stock was plunging 12.63% to $11.

Family Dollar ( FDO) was slumping 4.01% to $57.40 after the Matthews, North Carolina-based discount retailer lowered its current-year earnings forecast to up to $3.93 a share from the prior estimate of as much as $4.20 a share, as customers continue to face financial pressures and tighten their spending.

Written by Andrea Tse in New York

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

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