Dow futures up 20 pts; muted trading ahead of Fed rate decision

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Dow futures up 20 pts; muted trading ahead of Fed rate decision

By Peter Nurse -- U.S. stocks are seen opening largely unchanged Wednesday, in cautious trading ahead of the latest Federal Reserve policy-setting meeting, which is likely to set the tone into the new year.

At 07:00 ET (12:00 GMT), the Dow Futures contract was up 20 points, or 0.1%, while both S&P 500 Futures and  Nasdaq 100 Futures traded largely flat.

The three major averages closed higher Tuesday, cheered by news that inflation is showing signs of having peaked after U.S. consumer prices rose less than expected for a second straight month in November.

The blue chip Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 100 points, or 0.3%, the broad-based S&P 500 rose 0.7% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite gained 1%.

Attention now turns to the Fed's last scheduled rate decision for the year, due at 14:00 ET (19:00 GMT), followed 30 minutes later by the press conference with Chair Jerome Powell .

The weaker-than-expected CPI number has largely cemented expectations for a half-percentage-point increase after four successive hikes of 75 basis points, and this leaves the focus on Powell's remarks and on the central bank’s projections for where interest rates are likely to head in the next few months.

“Our perception is that the Fed will want to deliver some sort of ‘rate protest’, essentially pushing back against the recent easing in financial conditions,” said analysts at ING, in a note. “To do that, Powell will need to downplay the recent abatement in price pressure, stick to the view that the inflation battle is still to be won and ultimately try to re-anchor peak rate expectations to the 5.00% handle. That is easier said than done.”

In the corporate sector, earnings are due from the likes of housebuilder Lennar (NYSE: LEN ) and grill and outdoor equipment maker Weber (NYSE: WEBR ).

Additionally, Delta (NYSE: DAL ) is likely to be in the spotlight after the airline said its expects earnings to nearly double in 2023 thanks to "robust" travel demand. 

Crude oil prices gained Wednesday, with a bullish report from the International Energy Agency helping the market rally after industry data showed a surprise build in U.S. crude inventories, prompting concerns about demand holding up in the world’s largest consumer.

The Paris-based agency said Russia’s output is poised to plunge 14% by the end of the first quarter, and this squeeze of supplies is likely to result in crude prices rallying next year. 

The IEA also lifted its forecasts for global oil demand in 2023 by 300,000 barrels a day, citing vigorous growth in India and surprising resilience in China.

Data from the American Petroleum Institute , released Tuesday, indicated U.S. crude stocks rose by 7.8 million barrels last week, instead of the expected drop. 

Official data from the Energy Information Administration are due later in the session, for confirmation.

By 07:00 ET, U.S. crude futures traded 1% higher at $76.17 a barrel, while the Brent contract rose 0.9% to $81.42. 

Additionally, gold futures fell 0.4% to $1,818.75/oz, while EUR/USD traded 0.2% higher at 1.0649.

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