* Caterpillar down after forecast cut
* Mondelez down after Ackman sells some stake
* Futures down: Dow 40 pts, S&P 4.5 pts, Nasdaq 15.5 pts (Adds details, comments, updates prices)
By Abhiram Nandakumar
March 17 (Reuters) - Wall Street was set for a lower open on Thursday, a day after the Federal Reserve’s lowered expectations of two interest rate hikes in 2016 pushed the S&P 500 to its highest close this year.
The Fed, which left rates unchanged, pointed to moderate U.S. economic growth and strong job gains but cautioned about risks from an uncertain global economy.
While markets across assets cheered the move, the central bank’s dovish tone raised some concern about the prospects of the weakness in the global economy impacting the U.S. economy.
“There’s this little bit of rethinking and so, we’re looking at a softer opening as some questions arise to the prospects of future growth impacting earnings,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial in New York.
Cardillo said rising commodity prices and the expiration of futures options contracts on Friday should provide some support to the market.
At 8:36 a.m. ET (1236 GMT), Dow e-minis were down 40 points, or 0.23 percent, with 41,398 contracts changing hands. S&P 500 e-minis were down 4.5 points, or 0.22 percent, with 374,981 contracts traded. Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 15.5 points, or 0.35 percent, on 40,793 contracts.
Data on Thursday showed U.S. unemployment claims rose less than expected to 265,000 last week, pointing to a strengthening labor market.
The Fed’s plan to raise rates is in contrast with other central banks, which are further loosening their policies in the hope of kickstarting sagging growth in their economies.
Still, the Fed’s suggestion of a slower pace of rate hikes adds to the recent rally in stocks spurred by rising oil prices and improving economic conditions in the United States.
The S&P 500 is now off only 0.8 percent in 2016, after having fallen 10.5 percent earlier in the year.
The dollar weakened after the Fed’s statement, contributing to a recovery in crude prices on Thursday. Benchmark Brent gained above $40 a barrel as the market continues to be hopeful of a plan by major oil producers to tackle a global glut.
Shares of Mondelez International were down 2 percent at $40.90 premarket after billionaire investor William Ackman sold 20 million shares of the snack maker.
Caterpillar was down 2.7 percent at $72.34 after the Dow component cut its first-quarter profit and revenue forecast.
FedEx was up 5.9 percent at $152.73 after the package delivery company forecast better-than-expected full-year earnings. (Reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Don Sebastian)