Futures subdued ahead of Fed rate decision By Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People are seen on Wall Street outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., March 19, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Shubham Batra and Amruta Khandekar

(Reuters) -U.S. stock index futures were mostly flat on Wednesday ahead of a widely expected super-sized rate hike from the Federal Reserve, with investors looking for signs the central bank could temper its aggressive stance on future interest rate increases.

The Fed is expected to deliver a fourth straight 75 basis point hike at the end of its policy meeting on Wednesday, with the decision due at 2:00 p.m. ET (1800 GMT). Focus will be on commentary from Fed Chair Jerome Powell after the decision.

Key labor data this week, including the ADP National Employment report due at 8:15 a.m. ET on Wednesday, will be analyzed for clues on whether the Fed’s aggressive tightening has begun to cool the economy.

The ADP report is expected to show private payrolls rose by 195,000 jobs in October, according to a Reuters poll of economists, after gains of 208,000 in September.

Data on Tuesday also showed a jump in U.S. monthly job openings pointing to strong labor demand.

“The Fed has said they’re going to be data dependent and that is not good because the inflation numbers are still high and unemployment is low,” said Fall Ainina, director of research at James Investments.

“The numbers are still not there for the Fed to really pivot.”

Still, traders are split on the odds of a 50 bps or 75 bps rate hike in December, according to CME Group’s (NASDAQ:) Fedwatch tool.

Meanwhile, Advanced Micro Devices (NASDAQ:) Inc rose 4.3% premarket after it forecast some strength in its data center business, while Airbnb Inc fell 6.1% on a bleak holiday-quarter revenue forecast.

At 7:07 a.m. ET, were down 46 points, or 0.14%, were down 1.25 points, or 0.03%, and were up 11.25 points, or 0.1%.

Among other stocks, CVS Health Corp (NYSE:) gained 4.7% after raising its full-year profit forecast, while Estee Lauder (NYSE:) cut its full-year sales outlook, sending the cosmetics maker’s shares down 12.0% premarket.

U.S.-listed shares of Chinese firms Alibaba (NYSE:), JD (NASDAQ:).com and Baidu (NASDAQ:) rose between 2% and 6%, looking to extend their gains for a second session on rising expectations about easing of strict COVID-19 measures in China. [.SS]

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