LONDON -- Stock index futures as of 8 a.m. EST suggest that the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES: ^DJI ) may open up by 0.17% this morning, while the S&P 500 (SNPINDEX: ^GSPC ) is expected to rise by 0.19% when trading starts.
The Dow is currently less than 3% away from this year's high and has closed higher for the last five days. Investors have been betting on a resolution to the fiscal cliff, and a new Federal Reserve stimulus program to replace Operation Twist, which finishes this month. Today will see at least one of these questions answered when the Federal Open Market Committee makes its policy announcement at 12:30 p.m. EST. This will be followed by a press conference with Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke at 2:15 p.m. EST. Analysts suggest that a new program to buy $45 billion of bonds each month is likely, which would effectively expand the QE3 program.
Other economic data due today includes November's import price index, which is due at 8:30 a.m. EST and is expected to show that import prices fell by 0.5% last month after gaining 0.5% in October. November's Federal budget announcement is due at 2 p.m. EST.
In corporate news, Costco Wholesale released quarterly results this morning. The wholesaler beat analysts' estimates with a 30% rise in quarterly profit. Other companies whose stock could be actively traded this morning include chemicals giant DuPont, which rose by 2.8% in European trading this morning after it announced a share buyback program and said 2012 earnings would be at the upper end of guidance.
European markets were fairly quiet this morning as investors waited for the FOMC announcement, which will take place during European trading hours. The latest data from the eurozone showed that industrial output in the single-currency bloc fell by 1.4% in October, disappointing analysts who had forecast a 0.2% increase.
At 8 a.m. EST, the DAX was up 0.4%, the CAC 40 was up 0.06%, the FTSE MIB was up 1%, and the IBEX 35 was up 0.75%. In London, the FTSE 100 (FTSEINDICES: ^FTSE ) was up 0.26%, led by strong gains for miners Polymetal International, Evraz, and Anglo American. Anglo American rose 1.8% after Barclays Capital raised its weighting on its shares to "equal weight."
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