Last Fed meeting with Yellen in charge wraps up Wednesday
U.S. stocks looked on track for a wobbly session on Wednesday, as traders assessed whether the Democratic victory in Alabama's Senate election could break the S&P 500's and Dow average's three-day streak of record closes.
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Investors were also waiting for a Federal Reserve policy decision, with the central bank widely expected to raise interest rates.
What are futures doing?
Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down 2 points at 24,541, while those for the S&P 500 index slipped 0.80 point to 2,667.00.
Both benchmarks on Tuesday scored record closes for a third session in a row (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/dow-industrials-catch-their-breath-with-fed-meeting-set-to-start-2017-12-12), taking the total all-time highs this year to 67 for the Dow and 60 for the S&P . The Dow and S&P have gained for four straight sessions.
Futures for the Nasdaq-100 Index on Wednesday added 4.25 points, or 0.1%, to 6,407.25. The Nasdaq Composite Index on Tuesday slipped 0.2% as chip stocks posted losses.
What's driving the markets?
U.S. stock futures dipped early in Wednesday's premarket session after Democrat Doug Jones won Alabama's Senate election (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/doug-jones-defeats-roy-moore-in-contentious-alabama-senate-election-2017-12-12)Tuesday night, defeating controversial Republican Roy Moore and dealing what is seen as a rebuke to President Donald Trump, who endorsed Moore. Stock futures have since rebounded to trade close to the flat line.
The Democrat's victory will shrink the Republican Senate majority, leaving the balance at 51-49. That has raised concerns that it will be harder for the Republicans to push through major overhauls, such as tax reform, and that the governing party will struggle in the 2018 midterm elections.
However, the tax overhaul may not be threatened, as GOP leaders in Congress are rushing to clear the tax legislation by early next week before Jones arrives in Washington, a Wall Street Journal report noted (https://www.wsj.com/articles/democrat-doug-joness-win-in-alabama-senate-wont-affect-gop-tax-overhaul-1513139848).
Traders were also waiting for the Fed's interest rate decision, due at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. The central bank is widely expected to raise rates by 25 basis points (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-why-the-fed-will-hike-interest-rates-2017-12-11), so traders will look for any hints on the pace of tightening next year. The monetary policy meeting also marks the last for Janet Yellen as chairwoman and she will deliver her final press conference as central bank boss at 2:30 p.m.
Inflation data for November are also on deck, scheduled for release at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time. Economists polled by MarketWatch expect a 0.4% rise for a consumer price index.
Read:Here's why the Fed will hike interest rates on Wednesday (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-why-the-fed-will-hike-interest-rates-2017-12-11)
What are other markets doing?
The dollar moved slightly lower (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/dollar-slips-after-democrats-senate-win-in-alabama-sparks-concerns-about-tax-bill-2017-12-13) after the Alabama vote, with the ICE U.S. Dollar Index down 0.1% at 94.025.
Oil prices jumped 0.8% to $57.61 a barrel (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/oil-prices-rise-on-signs-of-falling-us-inventories-2017-12-13) on signs U.S. inventories are falling. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will release its monthly report later on Wednesday, which could also impact crude prices.
Gold futures were up 0.1% at $1,243.10 an ounce.
Bitcoin futures retreated below the $18,000 mark (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/bitcoin-futures-fall-below-18000-as-cryptocurrency-itself-drops-under-17000-2017-12-13) in their third full day of trading, while the spot price for the No.1 digital currency pulled back under $17,000.
Stocks in Europe traded lower, while Asian markets closed mixed.
What are strategists saying?
"The victory of Democrat Doug Jones for a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama is a major setback for President Trump's legislative agenda beyond the tax bill," said Philip Marey, senior U.S. strategist at Rabobank, in a note. "This will increase the pressure on the Republicans to pass a tax bill before the end of the year."
"The focus is firmly on the FOMC," said analysts at London Capital Group, in a note. "Given that it is Janet Yellen's final session as chair, forward guidance could come up disappointingly short."
Which stocks are in focus?
Shares of Proteostasis Therapeutics Inc. dropped 5.9% in premarket action after the biotech company late Tuesday said it plans to sell 7 million shares of its common stock.
Shares of Nordic American Tankers Ltd.(NAT) plunged 19% ahead of the bell after the ship builder late Tuesday said it'll sell $100 million shares via a public offering as part of its recapitalization plan.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
December 13, 2017 07:00 ET (12:00 GMT)