Stocks set for gains

By Hibah Yousuf, staff reporter

NEW YORK( -- U.S. stocks were set for a higher open Tuesday, as investors awaited the Federal Reserve's decision on interest rates.

Dow Jones industrial average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures were modestly higher ahead of the opening bell.

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

Wall Street finished Monday's session little changed in the aftermath of an advance that has seen stocks finish higher in four of the last five weeks.

Investors are in a holding pattern ahead of the central bank's policy statement, due out at 2:15 p.m. ET. The Fed is widely expected to leave rates unchanged.

"The market is probably going to be spinning its wheels most of the day until the FOMC announcement," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist for Avalon Partners.

Investors will be scrutinizing the policy statement for hints about how the Fed plans to unwind the stimulus measures it put in place in the wake of the financial crisis.

"I suspect the Fed will begin to be more optimistic. Recent economic data has been ticking higher, with most of the stalls being weather-related," Cardillo said. "Even the labor market is trending better, and that's the last major indicator that needs to turn to the positive side."

Economy: New home construction fell 5.9% to an annual rate of 575,000 in February, according to a government report, from an upwardly revised 622,000 during the previous month.

Economists surveyed by expected housing starts to have fallen to an annual rate of 570,000 during the month.

The report said building permits sipped 1.6% to an annual rate of 612,000 in February. They were expected to have fallen to an annual rate of 601,000 during the month.

A separate reading showed import prices slipped 0.3% in February, posting the first decline since July 2009. Excluding fuel, import prices gained 0.2%. Import prices in January were revised to climb 1.3%.

Export prices slipped 0.5% last month, following a revised 0.7% rise in January.

Companies: Sony (SNE) and the estate of Michael Jackson have signed a landmark music deal for 10 albums over seven years, according to published reports. The deal is said to be worth as much as $250 million.

World markets: European markets rose in morning trading. Britain's FTSE 100, the CAC 40 in France and Germany's DAX all gained about 0.7%.

Asian stocks fell back. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong and Japan's benchmark Nikkei index both lost about 0.3%.

Currencies and bonds: The dollar slipped versus the euro, the pound, and the yen. The price of the 10-year note fell, pushing up the yield to 3.71%.

Oil and gold: The price of oil rose 84 cents per barrel to $80.92. The price of gold rose $17.30 per ounce to $1,122.70. To top of page

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Index Last Change % Change
Dow 32,627.97 -234.33 -0.71%
Nasdaq 13,215.24 99.07 0.76%
S&P 500 3,913.10 -2.36 -0.06%
Treasuries 1.73 0.00 0.12%
Data as of 6:29am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Ford Motor Co 8.29 0.05 0.61%
Advanced Micro Devic... 54.59 0.70 1.30%
Cisco Systems Inc 47.49 -2.44 -4.89%
General Electric Co 13.00 -0.16 -1.22%
Kraft Heinz Co 27.84 -2.20 -7.32%
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