US Markets

US futures upbeat after two days of gains; all eyes on Fed

Yellen's biggest challenge is rising rates: Expert

U.S. stock index futures signaled a positive open on Wednesday as fears of military movements in Ukraine receded and ahead of U.S. Federal Reserve officials concluding their two day Federal Open Market Committee meeting.

(Read more: Wall St eyes Yellen for possible job target shift)

The conclusion of today's FOMC meeting and Fed Chair Janet Yellen's debut press conference as head of the Fed will take center stage on Wednesday afternoon. The consensus emerging currently is that the central bank will taper by another $10 billion and alter its forward guidance stance.

Peter Hooper, chief economist at Deutsche Bank Securities, said in a morning note that the Fed will want to change its forward guidance without making the markets worry about a rise in interest rates:

"To achieve this...the Fed is more likely to drop mention of the 6.5 percent threshold and strengthen its current references to other labor market indicators – for example highlighting their commitment to substantial further progress in reducing unemployment and raising inflation up to target, so long as inflation expectations remain stable."

(Read more: Former Fed Governor: Rates will rise by end of this year)

The FOMC meeting's announcement is due at 2pm ET, with the Yellen press conference to follow 30 minutes later.

Stimulus will stay in place longer than expected: Pro

Among earnings, FedEx slipped after the shipping giant posted quarterly results that were below expectations, citing the severe winter weather. Its full-year forecast also fell short of consensus.

And Oracle declined after the software giant also missed Wall Street estimates and as investors were concerned about increasing competition and slower tech spending.

Jabil Circuit and Vera Bradley are among notable companies slated to post earnings after the closing bell.

JPMorgan will sell its physical commodities business to Swiss trade house Mercuria for approximately $3.5 billion, according to Reuters. JPMorgan said it sees no material impact on earnings as a result of the deal.

On the economic front, the U.S. current account deficit narrowed to $81.1 billion in the fourth quarter, dropping to a 14-year low, as exports hit a record high, according to the Commerce Department.

Major averages rose on Tuesday for a second consecutive day following upbeat data on the U.S. economy and after Vladimir Putin said Russia was not looking to divide Ukraine.

"In an environment where developed market governments are loathe to make policy decisions, investors have seemingly put more faith in financial markets," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank. "From a headlines perspective, troop buildups, the Russian annexation of Crimea and talk of the Cold War would have seemed to have set off a stock market selloff. Instead the S&P 500 has surged nearly two percentage pointsover the last two days, suggesting investors believe Crimea doesn't matter much."

On Wednesday, Vladimir Putin signed a treaty formally making Crimea part of the Russian Federation, but said he was not looking to take control of any other regions of Ukraine at a speech in front of parliament on Tuesday, helping to calm markets.

There were still some worries ahead regarding the Ukrainian situation, which has come to dominate market movements for the last few weeks. On Wednesday Reuters reported - citing witnesses at the scene - that three Russian flags were flying at Ukraine's naval headquarters in the Crimean port of Sevastopol on Wednesday, with pro-Russian forces taking control of some of the base.

"Traders are surely...shrugging off any further ambiguity related to Russia. However, what they are forgetting to factor in is this, the Russian army is still sitting near the eastern border of Ukraine, and the unrest in Kiev could catch fire soon and hence we could have a déjà vu," AVA Trade's Chief Market Analyst Naeem Aslam said.