NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - U.S. stocks were a little higher Tuesday morning ahead of a key announcement from the Federal Reserve Board due out later in the day, in which the central bank is expected to hold interest rates steady but set the wheels in motion for a future rate hike.
It would be the first in nearly two years, since the Fed began its aggressive rate-cut campaign in January 2001, bringing the overnight lending rate down to 1.75 percent in an attempt to counter what many saw as a recession.
At 9:32 a.m., the Dow Jones industrial average added 28.20 to 10,606.11. The Nasdaq composite rose 3.51 to 1,881.32. The Standard & Poor's 500 index gained 2.32 to 1,167.19.
In other economic news, the gap between U.S. exports and imports grew in January, the government said, a report that points to an increased demand for goods but could potentially hurt growth in the first quarter.
Also on Tuesday, Hewlett-Packard (HWP: up $0.30 to $19.55, Research, Estimates) shareholders will cast their votes on the potential merger with rival Compaq Computer (CPQ: up $0.17 to $10.53, Research, Estimates), ending weeks of speculation. Compaq shareholders vote Wednesday. Neither result will be available publicly for several weeks.
Treasurys were little changed, with the ten-year note yield at 5.30 percent.
European markets were higher at midday, while Asian markets closed higher. The dollar was a little weaker versus the euro and a little stronger against the yen. Brent crude oil futures rose 8 cents to $25.15 in London.