U.S. stock index futures point to a higher open on Wednesday, ahead of the conclusion of the Federal Open Market Committee's, or FOMC, two-day policy meeting.
Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were up 0.14 percent, futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index were up 0.17 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index were up 0.30 percent.
Investors are likely to focus on the Federal Reserve's policy-setting FOMC meeting, which concludes Wednesday. The FOMC statement, the primary tool used by the panel to communicate with investors about its monetary policy, is due to be released at 2:00 p.m. EDT followed by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s press conference at 2:30 p.m. EDT.
The interest rate is expected to remain unchanged at 0.25 percent as the Fed has kept interest rates at historic lows in an attempt to increase consumer demand and spur business activity by making borrowing cheaper. And, it's widely believed that the Fed will not hike lending rates before the nation's unemployment rate falls under 6.5 percent.
The main focus will be on the $85 billion monthly bond-buying program, which was launched by the Fed in September 2012 in a bid to stoke economic growth. Bernanke said last month the bank could scale back its aggressive bond-buying program in the “next few meetings” if the economy strengthens.
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Signs of improvement in the world’s largest economy and recent comments from some Fed officials have raised fears that the Fed might soon phase out its bond-buying program, and triggered a sell-off in global markets.
Analysts do not expect any changes to the bond-buying program in the current meeting.
“We look for no changes in Fed monetary policy with respect to policy rates or the amount of the current asset purchase program. The economic data have been mixed but somewhat weaker, on balance, compared with the first quarter. Hence the economic review in the FOMC statement is likely to be more cautious,” said a note from Credit Agricole.
However, it's expected that the Fed could begin working toward scaling back the bond-buying program later this year, Reuters reported.
"Should the outlook improve as the Fed expects, then it may continue to lay the groundwork for a tapering of purchases at upcoming FOMC meetings," Michael Gapen, an economist with Barclays in New York, told Reuters.
Meanwhile, in Europe, markets were trading lower on Wednesday as investors opted for caution ahead of the FOMC meeting's conclusion. London’s FTSE 100 was down 0.46 percent, Germany's DAX-30 declined 0.38 percent, while France's CAC-40 slipped 0.29 percent.
"The Fed's tone will clearly influence the action. If Bernanke indicates that tapering is quite a bit of distance off, investors will feel relieved and equities can revisit their recent highs," Philippe Gijsels, head of research at BNP Paribas Fortis Global Markets, told Reuters.
Earlier, Asian markets mostly ended on a negative note with the exception of the Nikkei, which ended the day up 1.83 percent, buoyed by the strongest export data in two years and a weaker yen.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng plunged 1.13 percent and China's Shanghai Composite index declined 0.73 percent. South Korea’s KOSPI fell 0.65 percent while India’s BSE Sensex ended the day up 0.1 percent.