Futures Gain as Focus Shifts to Fed Announcement
Stock index futures were higher Wednesday as investors looked ahead to the Federal Reserve's policy meeting announcement, shifting their focus from worries over Cyprus.
After a two-day meeting, the Fed is due to the release its monetary policy statement later this afternoon, as well as economic forecasts. The news will be followed by a press briefing with Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.
Investors will be looking for any signs that the central bank could start winding down its quantitative easing program. It is expected to keep monetary policy unchanged this month however, continuing its super low rates policy and its $85 billion a month in asset purchases. Fed watchers expect it to stick with its program until the middle of next year, according to CNBC's Fed survey.
"We expect improvement in the labor market over the coming quarters to initiate a slowdown in the Fed's pace of balance sheet expansion in the fourth quarter of this year. This would mark the beginning of the process towards the first Fed funds rate hike but we do not expect the Fed to hike rates before the first quarter of 2015," a note from Danske Bank said on Wednesday.
European markets moved into positive territory as investors watched to see if Russia, rather than Europe, would come to the aid of Cyprus. Lawmakers in Cyprus overwhelmingly voted against a controversial EU bank bailout deal on Tuesday.
Cyprus's finance minister Michael Sarris who is in Moscow for talks with Russia told CNBC that the country was now "looking beyond" extending an existing loan agreement with Russia, prompting speculation that Russia could come to Cyprus's financial aid.
On the economic front, weekly mortgage applications fell for a second week as interest rates climbed to seven-month highs, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
Among earnings, FedEx slumped after the package-delivery company posted lower-than-expected earnings due to weakness in its air express business.
Lennar edged higher after the homebuilder reported earnings that exceeded Wall Street estimates as lower interest rates and rising rents increased home sales.
General Mills slipped after the cereal maker forecast a decline in earnings. Still, the company posted a higher-than-expected profit.
—By CNBC's JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)
Coming Up This Week:
WEDNESDAY: Oil inventories, FOMC mtg announcement, Fed forecasts, Bernanke press conference, Hewlett-Packard shraeholders mtg; Earnings from Oracle, Jabil Circuit, Guess
THURSDAY: Jobless claims, PMI manufacturing index flash, FHFA home price index, existing hom esales, Philadelphia Fed survey, leading indicators, natural gas inventories, Fed balance sheet/money supply; Earnings from Lululemon Athletica, Ross Stores, KBHome, Nike, Micron,
FRIDAY: Fed Governor Raskin speaks, Blackberry Z10 on sale via AT&T; Earnings from Darden Restaurants, Tiffany
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