Stocks: 3 things to know before the open

The Fed Awakens: Return of the interest rates?
The Fed Awakens: Return of the interest rates?

Today is the day that Wall Street has been waiting for.

The Federal Reserve is widely expected to raise interest rates in the U.S. this afternoon. The decision will have knock-on effects on markets around the world.

Here's what you need to know before the opening bell rings in New York:

1. Ready, set, Fed: The Fed is due to announce its interest rate decision at 2 p.m. ET. Fed chair Janet Yellen will host a news conference at 2:30 p.m. ET to explain the thinking behind the central bank's decision. Investors will be monitoring her remarks closely for hints about plans for any further rate rises.

Interest rates are currently near 0%, and they've been at this level since December 2008.

A rate increase would signal that policymakers believe the economy is on solid enough footing to handle higher borrowing costs.

"We've waited so long for this policy move that the initial [market] reaction may be meaningless," said Kit Juckes, a global strategist at Societe Generale. "Beyond the very short term however, the U.S. economy will go on growing, the Fed will hike further, and the dollar will rally through 2016."

(If you want to learn more about the importance of the Fed decision, CNNMoney has compiled a list of "Suggested Reading" for you at the bottom of this article...)

2. Wall Street is waiting: U.S. stock futures are moving up ahead of the open and European markets are also rising.

Asian markets ended with broad gains. The Nikkei 225 index in Japan led the way with a 2.6% jump.

The surge in Asia follow a healthy rally on Wall Street Tuesday. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 0.9%, the S&P 500 shot up by 1.1% and the Nasdaq was up by 1.2%.

premarket stocks trading futures
Click chart for in-depth premarket data.

3. Earnings: Oracle (ORCL) will post quarterly results after the market closes Wednesday, along with other companies including FedEx (FDX) and Pier 1 Imports (PIR).

Suggested Reading about the Federal Reserve:

The Fed rate hike... in 2 minutes

Why Wall Street actually wants a rate hike

What a Fed rate hike means for you

Relax, rate hike virgins! Fed shouldn't kill stocks

These countries are most at risk from a U.S. rate hike

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