U.S. stock indexes were set to open slightly lower on Wednesday, as investors awaited the outcome of a Federal Reserve meeting on monetary policy.
While the central bank is expected to leave interest rates unchanged, investors will keep a close eye on its commentary for clues on the path of future hikes.
Financial markets have recovered from a heavy selloff in the first two months this year, but remain cautious as improving conditions could push the Fed to tighten its policy sooner than expected.
Economists polled by Reuters are looking at two possible rate hikes in 2016, but financial markets are pricing in only one hike of 25 basis points.
Global markets dipped ahead of the Fed statement, which is expected at 2 p.m. ET (1800 GMT). Fed Chair Janet Yellen is scheduled to hold a press conference at 2:30 p.m.
"We've got some first-tier economic data (today) that is going to be analyzed, but largely ignored," said Alan Gayle, senior investment strategist at RidgeWorth Investments in Atlanta.
"I suspect that traders are going to wait on the sidelines for the Fed results," Gayle said.
A report by the Labor Department showed core consumer price index (CPI) rose more than expected in February. An improvement in core CPI, which excludes energy and food prices, is likely to bolster the Fed's case for tightening monetary policy.
At 8:42 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 34 points, or 0.2 percent, with 17,911 contracts changing hands. S&P 500 e-minis were down 6 points, or 0.3 percent, with 223,487 contracts traded. Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 8.75 points, or 0.2 percent, on volume of 21,333 contracts.
Crude prices rose about 2 percent after OPEC and non-OPEC producers agreed to meet next month to discuss freezing output, fueling hopes of strong measures to tackle a global glut. [O/R]
In U.S. corporate news, shares of Oracle were up 3.3 percent at $40 premarket after the enterprise software company's quarterly profit beat estimates.
Chipotle Mexican Grill was down 5.5 percent at $475.39 after warning that it will post its first quarterly loss as a public company.
LinkedIn was down 3.6 percent at $111.37 after Morgan Stanley downgraded the stock to "equalweight".Gap fell 4.1 percent to $28.50 after Morgan Stanley cut its rating on the stock to "underweight".
(Reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Don Sebastian)
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Updated Date: Mar 17, 2016 02:00:14 IST