U.S. stocks were set for a flat to slightly higher open Wednesday, Dec. 13, as investors picked through the impact of Democrat Doug Jones' shock election win in Alabama on Republican tax cut plans and as they prepped for the Federal Reserve's final policy meeting of the year.
Jones' narrow win over Republican rival Roy Moore will both reduce the GOP's majority in the Senate and complicate its legislative agenda into mid-term elections next year. The dollar index, which benchmarks the greenback's strength against a basket of six global currencies, was modestly softer at 94.08 in the wake of Jones' victory over Moore, who was robustly backed by President Donald Trump but lost support amid allegations of inappropriate relationships with underage girls.
U.S. equity futures suggested a mixed investor reaction at the opening bell, with contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising 13 points from the benchmark's record high on Tuesday, Dec. 12, and those linked to the broader S&P 500 up slightly.
The dollar's weakness also held back gains for European and U.K. stocks, keeping them within a tight range ahead of the Fed's final presser of the year -- and the last for outgoing Chair Janet Yellen -- later Wednesday in Washington.
Consumer prices in the U.S. rose 0.4% in November, matching forecasts as gas prices rose. Core CPI, which strips out food and energy, rose 0.1%.
Asian stocks painted a similarly mixed picture of pre-Fed trading, as well, with the region wide MSCI Asia ex-Japan index rising 0.07% while Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 falling for a second consecutive session to end the day 0.47% to the downside at 22,775.07 points.
Global oil prices rebounded overnight, as well, although Brent crude prices remained firmly below the $65 mark -- the highest since July 2015 -- they hit Tuesday following news of the shutdown of the Forties System pipeline in the North Sea.
A larger-than-expected 7.4 million drawdown for domestic crude stocks in the United States, according to American Petroleum Institute data, supported WTI prices, with February delivery contracts rising 0.82% early Wednesday to $57.62 while Brent futures were 0.9% higher at $63.88.
Bitcoin prices were modestly weaker in both the spot and futures markets, with January delivery marked $240 lower at $17,780 on the Cboe, with just more than 500 contracts changing hands, and immediate purchase bitcoins trading at $17,199 on the CoinDesk exchange.
Walt Disney Co. (DIS) shares were higher in premarket trading Wednesday amid reports that the company is close to an agreement with Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. (FOXA) that would see the Rupert Murdoch-led group sell some of its key media assets for around $40 billion.
Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. (VRTX) could get an opening bell boost Wednesday after analysts at Deutsche Bank initiated coverage of the Boston-based biotech with a "buy" rating and a price target of $175. The stock rose 0.5% in premarket trading to $141.63.
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