March 21, 2017 / 11:31 AM / a year ago

US STOCKS-Futures higher as investors await Fed speakers

By Tanya Agrawal

March 21 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were higher on Tuesday as oil prices rebounded and ahead of speeches by a host of Federal Reserve officials, whose comments will be scrutinized for clues on the future path of interest rate hikes.

* Sentiment was also boosted after French centrist Emmanuel Macron’s performance in a television debate raised expectations that he would win the presidential election over the far-right’s Marine Le Pen.

* Global investors have been worried about increasing protectionism, following the Brexit vote and President Donald Trump’s election. Last week, the G20 leaders dropped a pledge to keep global trade free and open.

* The market will keep an eye on Fed speakers after the central bank last week raised interest rates for the first time this year, but stuck to its outlook for two more hikes this year, instead of the three expected by the market.

* Bank of Kansas City President Esther George and Cleveland Fed chief Loretta Mester are scheduled to speak later in the day, while Boston Fed head Eric Rosengren will release the text of his speech.

* The Fed is on track to raise interest rates twice more this year and it could be more or less aggressive depending on inflation and fiscal policies from the Trump administration, Chicago Fed President Charles Evans said on Monday.

* Oil prices climbed on Tuesday, helped by expectations that an OPEC-led output cut would be extended beyond June but gains were pegged back by concerns about persistently high crude inventories.

* Wall Street drifted lower on Monday as investors worried that Trump’s plan to cut taxes and boost the economy could take longer than previously expected.

* The U.S. stock market has been on a record-setting spree since the election of Trump, but the rally has faltered in recent weeks as investors fret about a lack of clarity on his proposals to reform taxes and cut regulation.

* The economic calendar this week is relatively light, with only weekly jobless claims and durable goods numbers on the menu.

* Shares of General Mills slipped 0.8 percent to $59.80 in premarket trading after the Cheerios maker’s quarterly sales missed expectations.

* Esperion Therapeutics was up 1.8 percent at $41.95 after J.P. Morgan raised its price target.

* Dow-component Nike, which is due to report quarterly results after markets close, edged up 0.12 percent to $58.75.

Futures snapshot at 7:08 a.m. ET:

* Dow e-minis were up 8 points, or 0.04 percent, with 15,019 contracts changing hands.

* S&P 500 e-minis were up 3.25 points, or 0.14 percent, with 82,196 contracts traded.

* Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 9.75 points, or 0.18 percent, on volume of 18,271 contracts. (Reporting by Tanya Agrawal; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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