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US STOCKS-Wall St set to open higher as oil recovers; Fed in focus
March 15, 2017 / 12:59 PM / 9 months ago

US STOCKS-Wall St set to open higher as oil recovers; Fed in focus

* Fed statement at 2 p.m. ET; Yellen to speak 30 mins later

* Feb retail sales record smallest increase in 6 months

* Twitter lower after prominent accounts hacked

* Futures up: Dow 28 pts, S&P 4.25 pts, Nasdaq 8.75 pts (Adds details, comment, updates prices)

By Tanya Agrawal

March 15 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks looked set to open higher on Wednesday thanks to a rebound in oil prices as financial markets remained focused on a Federal Reserve meeting, where the central bank is widely expected to raise interest rates for the second time in three months.

The Fed is scheduled to release its latest policy statement along with updated economic forecasts at 2 p.m. ET (1800 GMT). Fed Chair Janet Yellen is due to hold a press conference half an hour later.

Traders have priced in more than a 90 percent chance of a quarter point rate increase, according to Fed fund futures.

Attention is turning to whether Yellen and her colleagues will signal an even faster pace of monetary tightening this year than the current three rate hikes that it projected at the December policy meeting.

The U.S. economy has been strengthening as the labor market approaches full employment and inflation picks up. Markets are also betting on a potential economic boost from President Donald Trump’s proposed fiscal policies.

“A rate hike now and another in June would certainly leave the door open to four increases and stop the Fed falling behind the curve if the US economy does respond strongly to either Trump’s stimulus plans – should they be enacted this year – or the prospect of them,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda in London.

Dow e-minis were up 28 points, or 0.13 percent, with 8,773 contracts changing hands at 8:38 a.m. ET.

S&P 500 e-minis were up 4.25 points, or 0.18 percent, with 111,280 contracts traded.

Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 8.75 points, or 0.16 percent, on volume of 7,396 contracts.

The S&P 500 has risen 10.6 percent since the election, spurred by optimism over Trump’s policies but the major indexes have been stuck in a tight trading range this month following a slew of hawkish comments from Fed members.

U.S. stocks fell on Tuesday as oil prices dropped to their lowest since November.

Oil prices rebounded on Wednesday, lifted by a surprise drawdown in U.S. inventories and after a monthly report from the International Energy Agency said OPEC cuts need more time to work.

Shares of oil major Exxon were up 0.6 percent at $81.50 in premarket trading.

Investors were also pondering data on U.S. retail sales, which posted their smallest increase in six months in February.

Other data showed consumer prices barely rose in February but the underlying trend remained consistent with rising inflation. The Labor Department said its Consumer Price Index ticked up 0.1 percent last month, after jumping 0.6 percent in January.

Twitter was down 1 percent at $15.16 after a number of prominent accounts on the microblogging website were hacked. (Reporting by Tanya Agrawal; Editing by Anil D‘Silva & Shri Navaratnam)

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