US stocks were set for a positive open Wednesday morning in New York ahead of a pivotal reading on gross domestic product and a Federal Reserve policy statement.
As of 6 am ET, the Dow Futures were up 89 points, the NASDAQ Futures were up 14 points, and the S&P Futures were up 10 points.
Trading has been choppy this week as traders digested mixed economic and corporate news combined with continued concerns that the swine flu outbreak may become a pandemic.
After once again failing to sustain an initial downward move, stocks showed a lack of direction throughout the trading day on Tuesday. The major averages bounced back and forth across the unchanged line before eventually ending the session modestly lower.
Gross domestic product data for the first quarter will be released at 8:30 am ET this morning, headlining a busy day on the economic front. Economists expect the GDP report to show a 4.7 percent decrease in the first quarter following a 6.3 percent decrease in the fourth quarter.
The Federal Reserve also concludes its two-day meeting on Wednesday, with the Federal Open Market Committee due to announce the results of the meeting at about 2:15 pm ET. The Fed is widely expected to leave interest rates unchanged.
Additionally, Burger King (BKC) is expected to report its quarterly earnings before the bell along with Wyeth (WYE), Aetna (AET), General Dynamics (GD) and Time Warner (TWX).
Europe's largest oil company Royal Dutch Shell (RDS-A, RDS-B ,RDSA.L) reported a 62% fall in its first-quarter profit as oil prices plummeted and demand for oil products dwindled due to the rough-and-tumble economy.
The Hague, Netherlands-based company's income attributable to shareholders was $3.49 billion or $0.57 per share, compared to $9.08 billion or $1.46 per share in the year-ago quarter.
Wednesday, Sanofi-Aventis (SNY) posted a 19% growth in first-quarter profit, and confirmed its 2009 forecast for adjusted earnings per share growth.
In addition, the company said it has halted 14 of 65 projects from clinical development, including experimental medicines for sleep apnea and depression, to focus on the most promising projects and to reallocate resources to external R&D alliances.
Bank of America Corp Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Lewis is expected to face severe shareholder antagonism in the bank's annual meeting on Wednesday. Ballots are said to be cast at the bank headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina on whether to re-elect the bank's directors and split the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer positions held by Lewis.
The swine flu outbreak was the focus of an emergency hearing on Capitol Hill Tuesday, as a panel of medical experts addressed the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. Experts warned that the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better, calling the outbreak a potential pandemic.
European stocks rose in early dealing Wednesday, while Asian shares finished mostly higher.
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