US STOCKS-Futures higher as Fed decision on rate hike awaited
* Futures up: Dow 111 pts, S&P 12 pts, Nasdaq 30.25 pts
By Tanya Agrawal
Dec 16 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were higher on Wednesday ahead of a widely expected hike in interest rates by the Federal Reserve later in the day.
* The Fed will announce the outcome of its policy meeting at 2 p.m. ET (1900 GMT), followed by a press conference by Chair Janet Yellen at 2:30 p.m. ET.
* An increase in the Fed's benchmark rate, from near zero, would be the first since June 29, 2006.
* After more than a year of posturing and a couple of false starts, the U.S. central bank is seen raising its rates by a token 25 basis points.
* Traders see an 81.4 percent chance of a rate hike, according to the CME Group's FedWatch tool.
* The Fed is expected to move gradually on subsequent rate hikes after the initial liftoff, according to a Reuters poll. That will help soothe jittery markets, which have been roiled recently by a rout in crude oil prices and a fall in the Chinese yuan.
* Higher interest rates make loans more expensive, crimping profit margins. Banks, however, will benefit from higher rates. Continuación...