Wall Street set to open flat as Fed decision looms

By By Tanya Agrawal Markets Reuters

Wall Street looked set to open little changed on Wednesday, a day after all three major indexes hit record highs, as investors refrained from making large bets ahead of the outcome of the U.S. Federal Reserve meeting where the central bank is widely expected to raise interest rates.

Continue Reading Below

The Fed is tipped to lift rates 25 basis points to 0.50-0.75 percent. The announcement is due at 2 p.m. ET (1900 GMT), followed by Chair Janet Yellen's news conference 30 minutes later.

Market participants will be paying close attention to Yellen's tone and new forecasts, seeking clues on policymakers' thinking on how President-elect Donald Trump's policies will impact growth and inflation.

However, concerns over a strengthening dollar continue with the dollar index , which measures the greenback against a basket of six major currencies, hitting 14-year peaks last month.

"Markets are acting like a zombie today ahead of the Fed decision," said Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Think Markets.

"It is not that they are not expecting a rate hike from the Fed, it is the element of the unknown which Yellen would deliver in her statement."

Continue Reading Below

Dow e-minis <1YMc1> were down 14 points, or 0.07 percent, with 4,844 contracts changing hands at 8:32 a.m. ET (1332 GMT). S&P 500 e-minis were down 2 points, or 0.09 percent, with 111,060 contracts traded. Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 0.5 points, or 0.01 percent, on volume of 6,870 contracts.

U.S. stocks racked up new all-time highs on Tuesday and the Dow Jones industrial average ended fewer than 100 points away from the 20,000 mark as a post-election rally showed no signs of fatigue.

The Dow has climbed about 9 percent since the Nov. 8 election, with gains fueled by expectations that Trump will reduce taxes and regulation and stimulate the economy.

"I don't think the Dow is an indicator of anything because it's such a small sample and the way in which the index is constructed," said Patrick Kaser, portfolio manager at Brandywine Global.

"But that said, right now we've been in a month of bullishness and optimism and so the mood will swing to skepticism as we wait for actual policies to come out."

Meanwhile, U.S. retail sales barely rose in November as households cut back on purchases of motor vehicles. The Commerce Department said retail sales edged up 0.1 percent. Economists had forecast overall retail sales increasing 0.3 percent.

Shares of Nordson were up 7.9 percent at $112.78 in premarket trading, a day after the industrial materials maker's fourth-quarter results beat expectations.

General Motors fell 3.6 percent to $36 and Ford declined 1.8 percent to $12.54 following a report that China will soon slap a penalty on an unnamed U.S. automaker for monopolistic behavior.

Hertz Global dropped 4.3 percent to $24.05 after the car rental company said on Tuesday it would replace its chief executive and reduce its board size.

Tech giants Apple , Amazon , Alphabet , Microsoft , and Facebook were up between 0.2 and 0.5 percent. Top executives at these companies were scheduled to meet with Trump at his New York headquarters.

(Reporting by Tanya Agrawal; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)