US Markets

Fed minutes, Q1 earnings in focus on Wall Street

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Wall Street on Wednesday, after better-than-expected results from Alcoa boosted investor sentiment.

The former Dow component kicked off first-quarter earnings season with a fall in revenue that still managed to beat analysts' forecasts. Alcoa shares rose more than 2 percent in extended-hours trading and were around 3.3 percent higher on the Frankfurt stock exchange early on Wednesday.

"As one of the industrial bellwethers, Alcoa's earnings are always interesting in one form or another, and there were a couple of positive signals for the broader market from the company's first-quarter filing," said Jim Reid of Deutsche Bank in a Wednesday research note.

"Management commentary was fairly upbeat and they talked up the prospects from the auto and aerospace industries. Of interest to macro players, the company said that the aluminium market is now expected to be in supply deficit in 2014, versus a previous expectation of surplus."

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Alcoa's earnings came ahead of the main bulk of earnings, which will start at this Friday with numbers from JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo.

Constellation Brands is the most interesting company reporting results early on Wednesday, and will hold a conference call at 10:30 a.m. ET. MSC Industrial will also post numbers before Wall Street opens.

Outside of the corporate space, the release of minutes from the Federal Reserve's March 18-19 meeting will be in focus.

"We'll be looking for more color around the Fed's shift to qualitative guidance and further information on the recent changes in the Fed's rate expectations," said Reid.

On a related note, the Fed's Daniel Tarullo will speak on Wednesday on financial stability, and may give more details about the recently announced bank leverage rule.

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The major data release during the day will be wholesale inventories for February at 10 a.m.