* Futures up: Dow 2 pts, S&P 0.25 pts, Nasdaq 2 pts
By Abhiram Nandakumar
March 16 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were little changed on Wednesday ahead of the outcome of a Federal Reserve meeting on monetary policy.
* While the central bank is expected to leave interest rates unchanged, investors will keep a close eye on its commentary for clues on the path of future hikes.
* Investors have welcomed the easing of the intense volatility that swept through financial markets in the first two months of the year, but remain cautious as calmer conditions could prompt the Fed to resume its policy tightening soon.
* Economists polled by Reuters are looking at two possible rate hikes in 2016, but financial markets are pricing in only one hike of 25 basis points.
* Global markets were mixed ahead of the Fed statement, which is expected at 2 p.m. ET (1800 GMT). Fed Chair Janet Yellen is scheduled to hold a press conference at 2:30 p.m.
* Crude prices rose about 2 percent after OPEC and non-OPEC producers agreed to meet next month to discuss freezing output, fueling hopes of strong measures to tackle a global glut.
* U.S. stocks closed lower on a quiet Tuesday, dragged down by a decline in healthcare and energy shares.
* Data scheduled on Wednesday will also give investors a reading on the state of the U.S. economy.
* A report by the Labor Department is expected to show that core consumer price index (CPI) likely rose 0.2 percent in February. An improvement in core CPI, which excludes energy and food prices, is likely to bolster the Fed’s case for tightening monetary policy. The report is due at 8:30 a.m. ET.
* In U.S. corporate news, shares of Oracle were up 3.5 percent at $40.10 premarket after the enterprise software company’s quarterly profit beat estimates.
* Merck was up 2.2 percent at $53.58 after Jefferies raised its price target on the stock.
* Valeant Pharmaceuticals was down 6.3 percent at $31.39 after a host of brokerages cut their ratings on the stock. The Canadian drugmaker halved in value on Tuesday after it warned of a debt default.
Futures snapshot at 7:11 a.m. ET:
* Dow e-minis were up 2 points, or 0.01 percent, with 3,262 contracts changing hands.
* S&P 500 e-minis were up 0.25 points, or 0.01 percent, with 72,678 contracts traded.
* Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 2 points, or 0.05 percent, on volume of 4,027 contracts. (Reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Don Sebastian)