Wall Street eyes Fed minutes as earnings season starts

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Wednesday as investors await what they expect to be dovish minutes from the Federal Reserve and earnings season gets underway with Alcoa numbers.

The publication of the Federal Open Market Committee minutes of the 17-18th March meeting, when it was decided to drop the word "patient" from the policy statement as a sign of a return to a more traditional monetary policy, is expected at 2:00 p.m. ET.

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Barrels are filled with oil at a Royal Dutch Shell lubricants blending plant in Torzhok, Russia.
Andrey Rudakov | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Barrels are filled with oil at a Royal Dutch Shell lubricants blending plant in Torzhok, Russia.

The statement will be watched for further hints on how the Fed will decide when to make the move and lift rates.

A Federal Reserve governor, Jerome Powell, said the central bank needs "more proof" that the job market is tightening.

Total mortgage application volume rose 0.4 percent week-to-week on a seasonally adjusted basis for the week ending April 3, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA). The move was driven entirely by a 7 percent surge in applications by homebuyers

The only other major economic news for the day are weekly oil inventories and a 10-year note auction.

Family Dollar reported earnings that missed on both the top and bottom lines. Rite Aid beat expectations for both earnings per share and revenues.

Alcoa kicks off corporate earnings season, with its first quarter earnings expected after the closing bell, when Bed Bath & Beyond also reports. Earnings season gets into full swing next week when major banks and technology companies report.

Oil will also be in focus Wednesday, as prices fell more than a percent after data from the American Petroleum Institute (API) showed U.S. crude stocks surged 12.2 million barrels last week against analyst expectations for an increase of 3.4 million barrels.

The price fall follows a rally seen on Tuesday, when U.S. crude approached 2015 highs. Brent May crude was down 1.5 percent to just above $58 a barrel in morning trade, and U.S. May crude dropped about 2 percent to below $53 a barrel.

European stocks were mixed on Wednesday despite a surge in energy stocks with Shell launching a bid for U.K.-listed BG Group.

Oil and gas firms in Europe surged by over 5 percent in early deals with BG Group initially rising by 42 percent and Shell lower by 2.5 percent.

The oil major confirmed Wednesday morning that it is in advanced talks to buy BG Group in a £47 billion ($69 billion) cash-and-shares offer. Other oil companies like BP, Total and Tullow Oil traded higher on the news.

The initial Apple Watch reviews came out mostly positive on Wednesday morning.

Tesla announced an upgrade of its flagship Model S, featuring a larger battery pack and all-wheel drive.

Walt Disney and IMAX have renewed their movie exhibition deal, covering releases from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm.

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Oil and gas exploration and production company Noble Energy will cut about 220 positions, about half at Noble's Colorado operations.

CNBC's Peter Schacknow contributed to this report.