Updated from 8:21 a.m. ET, Wednesday, July 5.
Stock futures were higher on Wednesday, July 5, as Wall Street returned from Independence Day festivities.
S&P 500 futures were up 0.15%, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures climbed 0.06%, and Nasdaq futures added 0.3%.
Minutes from the Federal Reserve's meeting in June will be made public Wednesday afternoon at 2 p.m. ET. The Federal Open Market Committee, the monetary policy arm of the U.S. central bank, opted to raise interest rates at its June 13-14 meeting. The Fed hiked by 25 basis points, putting its target rate at 1% to 1.25%.
The increase was the Fed's second of the year and was taken as a vote of confidence in the U.S. economic recovery and future pace of growth.
Most Fed officials also telegraphed one more rate hike this year and an average of three in 2018. Fed Chair Janet Yellen gave projections of median short-term rates as 1.4% at the end of this year; 2.1% at the end of 2018; and 2.9% at the end of 2019. The Fed also indicated that recent inflation weakness was transitory.
"Inflation ... is well below where the Fed expects it to be when unemployment is this low," Aberdeen Asset Management Investment Strategist Luke Bartholomew wrote in a note. "They are still convinced that the old relationship between unemployment and inflation will assert itself eventually."
"But the minutes might show that there's more disagreement about this view than the Fed leadership expresses in public. That would be significant," he added. "A divided sounding Fed could be a catalyst for the relatively quiet concerns about inflation and a policy error to grow."
Investors will be on the lookout for any language that suggests when the Fed could begin to unwind its balance sheet. Fed members have previously said that the central bank could begin to unwind the $4.5 trillion in bonds it holds on its balance sheet as early as this year.
Escalating tensions in Asia kept any gains in check. North Korea on Wednesday said that its intercontinental ballistic missile was able to carry a large nuclear warhead. The regime fired a missile into Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone early Tuesday. The U.S. Defense Department believes the missile could reach as far as Alaska and possibly other parts of the U.S. mainland.
In response, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson called the missile firing a "new escalation of threat" and the U.S. has called for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Council. The missile firing comes days before of a meeting of G20 leaders where a discussion of the proliferation of weapons in Pyongyang will be on the agenda.
The North Korea threat could prevent the Dow from topping new records on Wednesday. The blue-chip index reached an intraday record in the shortened trading session on Monday, July 3. Markets were closed on Tuesday in honor of the July 4 holiday.
Crude oil prices were lower on Wednesday as investors awaited delayed data on domestic inventories. Weekly stockpiles data from the Energy Information Administration has been delayed by a day due to the public holiday and will be released on Thursday, July 6, at 10:30 a.m. ET.
West Texas Intermediate crude was down 1.6% to $46.34 a barrel on Wednesday.
General Motors Co. (GM) edged higher in premarket trading after the automaker said sales in China had bounced back in June after two months of decline. GM reported vehicle sales of 285,191 vehicles in the region in June, 4.3% higher than the same month a year earlier. For the first six months of the year, sales fell 2.5%. The automaker is the second-largest maker of foreign vehicles in China.
GM also announced that it would introduce 10 new or updated models to the Chinese market in the next six months.
"We are pleased with the strong demand across our brands in June," said regional chief Matt Tsien in a statement. "Over the next six months, we will be launching 10 new and refreshed models to build on our momentum."
U.S.-based Vantiv Inc. (VNTV) announced plans to purchase U.K. company Worldpay Group plc (WPG) in a deal worth $10 billion. The merger deal edged out J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM) which had also expressed interest in an acquisition.
"The potential merger creates a scale world class payments group in a dynamic market, with deep payments capabilities, product and vertical expertise and strong distribution channels," the companies said.
Baidu Inc. (BIDU) and Nvidia Corp. (NVDA) were higher in premarket trading after partnering to develop artificial intelligence technology. Baidu will rely on Nvidia chips for its cloud and self-driving car technology.
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