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U.S. stock-index futures ticked higher Wednesday as news President Obama will nominate Janet Yellen as the next Fed chief overshadowed concerns about a deadlocked Congress.
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As of 8:00 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures climbed 15 points, or 0.1%, to 14730, S&P 500 futures gained 2.3 points to 1653 and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 4.5 points to 3155.
Wall Street finally got a reprieve from Congress ... but not Washington, D.C.
President Barack Obama is expected to nominate Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Janet Yellen to be the next head of the central bank, succeeding Ben Bernanke. Bernanke has had perhaps one of the most tumultuous runs as Fed chair, steering the world's biggest economy through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. If Yellen becomes the next Fed chief, it will be up to her to unwind the central bank's unprecedented asset-buying program and eventually begin lifting interest rates.
Yellen is seen as on the dovish side of the spectrum -- supporting aggressive easing -- so the move came as positive news for market participants, especially in emerging markets where worries about tapering have taken a steep toll.
"While it was fully expected that one very dovish central planner at the Fed would replace another, Asian emerging markets are breathing a sigh of relief that the QE will likely keep on coming and paying more attention to that then the continued wrangling between Congress and the White House," Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group, wrote to clients.
Also on the Fed front, traders will get minutes from the central bank's September meeting at 2 p.m. ET. Fed watchers will be looking for clues on when the central bank will begin paring back its bond-buying program in which it is currently buying assets at a clip of $85 billion a month.
Still, traders and analysts continued paying very close attention to events in Washington, D.C., where a partial government shutdown dragged into its ninth day. Lawmakers remained deadlocked as a scarier October 17 deadline to boost the U.S. debt ceiling loomed just days away.
"With no imminent resolution to the US political deadlock, there are increasing signs of nervousness in markets as the 17 October deadline approaches," analysts at Barclays told clients, citing developments in the fixed income market.
Indeed, Potomac Research Group, a Washington, D.C.-based political consultant, issued a note to clients saying the chances of a default on American debt are slim but rising. PRG said the far right flank of the Republican party still seems unwilling to budge on its demands that ObamaCare be delayed or repealed as part of a fiscal resolution.
"This is the Alamo, it's Braveheart, battles to the death," PRG said of the fight in Congress.
Elsewhere, in corporate news, Alcoa (NYSE:AA) unofficially kicked off earnings season with a beat on the top and bottom lines in its first earnings report since being booted from the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Jos. A. Bank offered to pay $2.3 billion to buy competitor Men's Wearhouse (NYSE:MW).
In commodities, U.S. crude oil futures fell 20 cents, or 0.18%, to $103.31 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline climbed 0.22% to $2.637 a gallon. Gold slid $14.60, or 1.1%, to $1,310 a troy ounce.
The Euro Stoxx 50 climbed 0.48% to 2917, the English FTSE 100 dipped 0.07% to 6361 and the German DAX gained 0.11% to 8565.
In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 rallied 1% to 14038 and the Chinese Hang Seng fell 0.63% to 23034.