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Mar 21, 2018

CNBC | Stocks open little changed as Wall Street awaits Fed decision, Powell news conference on March 21,2018.

cnbc.com

Stocks open little changed as Wall Street awaits Fed decision, Powell news conference

Fred Imbert, Alexandra Gibbs

U.S. stocks kicked off Wednesday trading little changed as investors looked ahead to the Federal Reserve's latest decision on monetary policy as well as Jerome Powell's first news conference as chair.
The Dow Jones industrial average and S&P 500 both opened around the flatline, while the Nasdaq composite slipped 0.1 percent. Chevron was the best-performing Dow component in early trade, while the S&P 500 energy sector outperformed.
Wall Street largely expects the central bank to announce a rate hike following a two-day meeting. Market expectations for a 25 basis-point bump in overnight rates were at 94.4 percent, according to the CME Group's FedWatch tool. Investors will also look for clues about the Fed's tightening trajectory for the rest of 2018.
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Lucas Jackson | Reuters
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
"First, they will hike rates 25 bps to 1.50-1.75%. Second, there will be an obsession with the dot plot," said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Financial Group, in a note.
The so-called dot plot refers to the Fed funds rate projections from the central bank's policymakers. The last batch of dot plots, released in December, showed the Fed expects to raise rates three times this year. Some market experts believe it is possible the Fed could increase its 2018 projections to four rate hikes.
The central bank will announce its decision Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET. Wall Street will also zero in on Chair Powell's first news conference in the position at 2:30 p.m. ET.
"Anything is possible in Powell's press conference but I'm inclined to think he wants it to be as boring as possible because why talk about a 4th hike when he is just initiating his first," said Boockvar.
Treasury yields rose slightly ahead of the Fed announcement and Powell's news conference. The benchmark 10-year yield traded at 2.9 percent, while the short-term two-year yield hit its highest level since 2008.
In corporate news, Facebook shares added to this week's losses as the social media giant faces an investor lawsuit after reports emerged alleging that Cambridge Analytica, an analytics company, had gathered data from 50 million Facebook profiles without the permission of its users. Facebook fell 1.5 percent.
General Mills, meanwhile, fell nearly 10 percent after the company trimmed its adjusted earnings growth forecast.