Futures Slightly Higher Ahead of Federal Reserve Meeting

Gladys Abbott
September 21, 2017

USA stocks edged up in early afternoon trading on Tuesday, helped largely by gains in telecom stocks, but traded in a narrow range as investors stayed away from making major bets ahead of the Federal Reserve's policy meeting.

Yellen emphasized, during the news conference, that the central bank was monitoring stubbornly low inflation closely, with an eye to seeing it return to its 2% annual target.

Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 5.75 points, or 0.1 percent, in volume of 26 contracts.

In afternoon trading, the Nasdaq rose 0.4%, the Dow gained 0.3% and the S&P 500 increased 0.2%.

The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC added 6.68 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,461.32, also squeaking out a record closing high, slightly above its September 13 close. It's expected to keep its key interest rate steady but begin unwinding its balance sheet. The choppy trading comes after the major averages reached new record closing highs in the previous session.

In the bond market, treasuries came under pressure on the heels of the announcement from the Fed.

Investors will also be watching for signals that the Fed will raise rates in December, and for any clues on personnel changes as the end of Fed Chair Janet Yellen's term approaches and after the resignation of Vice Chair Stanley Fischer earlier this month.

The central bank is likely to say that it will start unwinding its holdings of about $4.2 trillion in bonds and mortgage-backed securities.

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The Fed's interest-rate projections, known as the so-called dot plot, suggests an interest-rate hike in December and three more in 2018.

Western Digital slipped 4.36 percent after Japan's embattled Toshiba said it agreed to sell its semiconductor business to a group led by USA private equity firm Bain Capital.

Data showed US homebuilding fell for a second straight month in August as a rebound in the construction of single-family houses was offset by weakness in the multifamily home segment. The National Association of Realtors said existing home sales fell (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/existing-home-sales-fall-in-august-for-the-fourth-time-in-five-months-2017-09-20) 1.7% to a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.35 million.

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals (ALNY) posted a standout gain after the biopharmaceutical company reported positive trial results for its treatment of a rare genetic disease.

Pfizer rose about 1 percent after Morgan Stanley upgraded stock to "overweight" from "equal weight".

On the earnings front, General Mills is scheduled to report before the bell while Herman Miller is due to report after the market close.

In oil markets, Brent crude traded at around $55.38 a barrel on Tuesday morning, up 0.44 percent, while USA crude was around $49.85 a barrel, up 0.77 percent.

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