U.S. stocks: Futures higher; focus on inflation, Fed

102034258-456098504.530x298U.S. stock futures were rising on Wednesday, as markets appeared to be banking on a less-hawkish Federal Open Market Committee statement, but Russian and oil prices continue to drive some unease.

Many investors remained wary after the turbulence that swept through markets on Tuesday. The Russian ruble was seesawing amid reports the central bank was selling its foreign currency reserves, and inventory data for oil due later in the session also looms large.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJH5, +0.34% rose 74 points, or 0.4%, to 17,081, while those for the S&P 500 index SPH5, +0.64% added 9.8 points, or 0.5%, to 1,974.90. Those for the Nasdaq-100 index NDH5, +0.36% gained 20.75 points, or 0.5%, to 4,104.

A volatile day saw the slide in oil and the ruble spill across all markets Tuesday, sending the Dow industrials DJIA, -0.65% 0.7% lower and the S&P 500 SPX, -0.85% to a nearly 1% loss. The declines came near the close, more than undoing a late-morning surge. It was the third straight day of losses for both indexes.

Markets expect a “less-than-hawkish Fed” later, said Brenda Kelly, chief market strategist with IG, said in emailed comments.

“Despite the abject aversion to risk at the beginning of the week, U.S. futures have found buyers – technical have helped somewhat and given that the lows of mid-October remain untested thus far has aided the new-found trader confidence,” she said.

The Fed, inflation: Consumer prices for November will be released at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time. Economists polled by MarketWatch expect core prices, which strip out food and energy, to rise 0.2%, while the headline number is seen down 0.1%. Investors will be watching to see what kind of effect falling oil prices have had on the index.

As for the Federal Reserve, the policy decision is due at 2 p.m. Eastern Time, and a news conference with Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen follows at 2:30 p.m. Eastern. If the Fed plays down rate-hike possibilities next year, markets could push higher, said analysts. The three most important things to watch during Fed meeting

Specifically, investors want to see if the Fed will strip the “considerable time” phrase from its statement, which would hint at a more hawkish stance. Investors also want to see if and how Yellen addresses the Russian crisis and plunging oil prices. WSJ’s Hilsenrath: Fed likely to look past Russia turmoil

But given currency and oil-market turmoil, it’s unclear how much of a gain investors should expect and volatility should surprise no one, said Kelly. “We had a V-shaped recovery from the October lows. Given current conditions, it might be extreme to expect a similar bounce this time around,” she said.

Crude inventories due later: Pressure stayed on oil prices, with U.S. crude futures CLF5, -1.90% under $55 and Brent crude LCOG5, -1.38% under $60 and markets nervous ahead of supply data.

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