Dec. 18 Premarket Briefing: 10 Things You Should Know

Here are 10 things you should know for Wednesday, Dec. 18: 

1.-- U.S. stock futures were pointing to gains for Wall Street on Wednesday as markets worldwide awaited a decision from the Federal Reserve on when the central bank will begin reducing U.S. monetary stimulus.

European stocks were advancing in early trading Wednesday. Asian shares ended the session mostly higher. Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 2%.

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will give his final quarterly news conference on Wednesday. His second four-year term as chairman ends Jan. 31, with Vice Chair Janet Yellen likely to succeed him.

2.-- The economic calendar in the U.S. Wednesday includes housing starts and building permits for November at 8:30 a.m. EST. The rates decision from the Federal Open Market Committee is expected at 12:30 p.m. 

3.-- U.S. stocks on Tuesday slipped as Wall Street gauged possible outcomes of the two-day Fed meeting.

The S&P 500 fell 0.3% to close at 1,781.00, the Nasdaq declined 0.15% to 4,023.68 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.06% to 15,875.26.

4.-- The Justice Department is preparing to file civil fraud charges against Citigroup (C) and Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAC) over their sale of flawed mortgage securities ahead of the financial crisis, Reuters reported, citing people familiar with the probes.

Evidence allegedly shows that investors lost tens of billions of dollars after purchasing securities Citigroup had marketed as safe even though the bank had reason to believe otherwise, one person told Reuters.

An investigation into the mortgage securities marketed by Merrill Lynch, which Bank of America purchased in 2008 at the height of the financial crisis, also is close to completion, two other people told Reuters.

There also are probes underway against Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and Credit Suisse (CS), Reuters reported. 

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