Stocks set to advance at open

By staff

NEW YORK( -- U.S. stocks were poised to advance Wednesday, as investors prepared for the release of the Federal Reserve's policy statement.

Dow Jones industrial average, Standard & Poor's 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures were slightly higher, changing direction from earlier.

Futures measure current index values against perceived future performance and offer an indication of how markets may open when trading begins in New York.

U.S. stocks finished Tuesday's session slightly lower after a late-session selloff hit the banking sector, cutting into an earlier rally that was sparked by Apple's record quarterly results and a strong reading on consumer confidence.

"We are turning the corner a bit this morning," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Jefferies & Co, but he noted that the gains were mild and tenuous and could easily be swayed by market news."It may well change very quickly as the day wears on."

The biggest event of the day, said Hogan, is probably the State of the Union address by President Obama, who will probably couch his speech to be "more friendly to the market."

Federal Reserve: Investors are on edge ahead of the Fed's policy statement, which is due out at 2:15 p.m. ET.

Central bankers are widely expected to leave rates unchanged at near zero, but investors will scrutinize the statement for any hints about when the Fed may start raising rates again and unwinding its economic support programs.

Companies: Stocks to watch include Apple (AAPL, Fortune 500), which is expected to make a major product announcement in the afternoon.

Toyota (TM) on Tuesday suspended sales of eight of its models in the U.S. in relation to a previously announced recall of 2.3 million vehicles.

Earnings: Yahoo (YHOO, Fortune 500) posted fourth-quarter earnings that topped Wall Street's estimates after U.S. markets closed Tuesday.

World markets: Sentiment was glum around the world. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei finished the session down 0.7%. Major indexes in the UK, France and Germany fell around 1% in morning trading.

Cash and bonds: The dollar fell versus the yen, the euro and the British pound. The price of the 10-year note rose, lowering the yield to 3.62%.

Oil and gold: The price of oil rose 25 cents to $74.96 a barrel. The price of gold dropped $1.40 per ounce to $1,096.90.

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