Here are the most important news, trends and analysis that investors need to start their trading day:
1. Stock futures point to higher open ahead of Fed decision
U.S. stock futures were firmly in the green Wednesday, as investors await a key interest rate decision from the Federal Reserve later in the day. Dow futures implied an opening gain of roughly 375 points, while S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures were higher by around 1.25% and 1.8%, respectively.
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Wall Street is looking to build off Tuesday's solid gains, which some strategists suggest may have just been an overdue relief rally. The broad S&P 500 ended a three-day losing streak jumping 2.1%. The Nasdaq advanced 2.9% to also halt a three-day skid, although the tech-focused index remains about 19% off its record closing high in November. Both indexes are seeking their first back-to-back positive sessions since Feb. 24-25. After ending Monday's session essentially flat, the Dow on Tuesday added 599 points, or 1.8%.
2. Fed expected to raise rates for first time since 2018
The Fed's two-day policy meeting concludes Wednesday, and the U.S. central bank is widely expected to announce at 2 p.m. ET its first interest rate hike since December 2018. Fed Chair Jerome Powell is scheduled to hold a news conference 30 minutes later. Most anticipate a quarter-point increase to the fed funds target rate range, which has been between zero and 0.25% since early 2020.
The Fed's expected move Wednesday is the latest step in its policy tightening cycle, as inflation in the U.S. economy runs at its hottest pace in decades. The fallout from the Russia-Ukraine war is adding to inflation concerns. Investors will be listening for Powell's comments on the conflict and how it's impacting the central bank's policy outlook.
3. Zelenskyy says peace deal with Russia starting to 'sound more realistic'
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said a potential agreement to ending the war with Russia is starting to "sound more realistic," as negotiations with Moscow continue. "However, time is still needed for the decisions to be in Ukraine's interests," Zelenskyy said in an address to the nation. Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, also suggested peace talks were making progress, saying in an interview with Russia's RBC that "there is some hope of reaching a compromise."
The comments come as Russia's invasion of Ukraine enters its fourth week, and its attack on its neighbor appears to be widening. Local officials in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia said civilian infrastructure in the town had been targeted for the first time. Residential buildings in the Ukrainian capital city, Kyiv, also were under fire again Wednesday.
4. China pledges more economic support; stocks rebound
Hong Kong's Hang Seng index registered its best day since October 2008 on Wednesday, surging 9.1% after multiple days of heavy selling. Tech companies like Alibaba and Tencent both saw their Hong Kong-listed shares jump more than 20%. The Shanghai composite and Shenzhen component — two key indexes on mainland China — advanced 3.5% and 4%, respectively.
The rebound came as investors processed two pieces of positive news for China's economy and its publicly traded companies. The official Xinhua News Agency reported that Chinese officials pledged to offer more support for the world's second-largest economy, including the crucial real estate sector. The state news outlet also said progress had been made on a cooperation plan for U.S.-listed Chinese stocks, which have been the subject of intense regulatory scrutiny.
5. Pfizer asks FDA to OK another Covid booster for older adults
Pfizer and German partner BioNTech have asked the Food and Drug Administration to authorize an additional coronavirus vaccine booster shot for Americans who are at least 65 years old. In their application, the vaccine makers cite data from Israel that shows a second Covid booster dose at least four months after the initial shot offers better protection against the disease. People age 65 and older face elevated risk for severe illness and death from Covid.
— CNBC's Chloe Taylor and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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