Stock Futures Nudge Higher Ahead of Fed Decision

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures were nudging slightly higher Wednesday as investors maneuvered cautiously ahead of the Federal Reserve's policy update and amid more worrying news out of Iraq.

Federal Reserve officials will publish their June policy statement at 2 p.m. EDT. That will then be followed by a press conference with Fed Chair Janet Yellen at 2:30 p.m.

The last time rates were adjusted was on Dec. 16, 2008, though quantitative easing was tapered by $10 billion during the last four meetings. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg, on average, aren't expecting a change in rates.

The focus Wednesday will continue to be on the topic of tapering, with the market additionally looking for language on tightening, said Birinyi Associates. Firms that provided targets predict there will be an additional $10 billion of tapering announced Wednesday and that this pace of $10 billion cuts per meeting will continue.

After analyzing FOMC releases over the last two years, Birinyi Associates noted that 69% of the time the market traded lower by 11 basis points from the 2 p.m. FOMC announcements to the close, and was down an additional 20 basis points, on average, the following day 62% of the time.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were rising 3 points, or 6.51 points above fair value, to 16,732, S&P 500 futures were up 0.25 points, or 0.41 points above fair value, to 1,934, Nasdaq futures were ahead by 4.2 points, or 3.88 points above fair value, to 3,776.50. U.S. markets rose on Tuesday, though continuing tensions in Iraq and cautiousness as the Fed began its two-day policy meeting capped any big gains.

Oil prices were spiking after Reuters reported that Sunni militants have attacked the largest oil refinery in Iraq and took control of the production units, administration building and four watch towers, or 75% of the refinery.

In Europe, markets rose for a second day Wednesday as investors awaited the outcome of the U.S. Federal Reserve monetary-policy meeting and digested minutes released Wednesday from the June 4-5 Bank of England meeting.

Individual stocks in focus Wednesday include General Electric (GE), Amazon.com (AMZN), FedEx (FDX), Adobe Systems (ADBE) and Red Hat (RHT).

General Electric is considering the sale of its train-signaling business to France's Alstom in an effort to raise the appeal of its $17 billion offer for Alstom's energy business and to counter a bid from Germany's Siemens (SI) and Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Amazon.com is expected on Wednesday to unveil its first smartphone, a device that could sport a 3-D screen, at a launch event in Seattle. Shipping giant FedEx surpassed quarterly earnings expectations by 10 cents at $2.46 a share, with revenue also beating estimates. Adobe Systems' second-quarter earnings and revenue topped analysts' expectations. Red Hat, that maker of open source software, is forecast by Wall Street to report fiscal first-quarter earnings of 33 cents a share on sales of $414 million.

-- By Andrea Tse in New York

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