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* Boeing slides on Ethiopia crash data scrutiny
* Futures: Dow off 0.19 pct, S&P & Nasdaq flat
* Facebook drops as brokerage Needham moves to sidelines
* Marriott rises on plans to open new hotels, buyback (Adds comment, details; updates prices)
By Medha Singh
March 18 (Reuters) - The S&P 500 and Nasdaq were set for a muted open on Monday, coming off their strongest weekly jump this year, while investors waited for the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting later this week for further clues on the pace of interest rate hikes.
The Dow futures were pressured by Boeing Co, which fell 2.4 percent in premarket trading after Ethiopia said an initial analysis of black boxes showed “clear similarities” in the March 10 plane crash with October’s accident in Indonesia.
Concerns over the safety of Boeing’s money-spinning MAX 8s led to the aircraft’s grounding around the world last week, shaving off more than 10 percent from the market value of the world’s largest planemaker.
At 8:38 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 49 points, or 0.19 percent.
S&P 500 e-minis were up 2.25 points, or 0.08 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 2.5 points, or 0.03 percent.
“The focus for the week is obviously the Fed which is going to lean to the optimistic side and will probably also cut (interest rates) later on, but not nearly enough to set off panic about lower rates,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York.
The Federal Reserve’s two-day policy meeting begins on Tuesday, where the central bank is widely expected to stick to its pledge of a “patient” approach to monetary policy.
Investors will be looking for whether policymakers will have sufficiently lowered their interest rate forecasts to more closely align to their “dot plot”, a diagram showing individual policymakers’ rate views for the next three years.
Also expected are more details on a plan to stop cutting the Fed’s holdings of nearly $3.8 trillion in bonds.
Traders currently expect there will be no interest rate hikes this year, and are even building in bets for a rate cut in 2020.
This comes on the heels of a batch of weak economic data last week that validated the Fed’s decision to remain less aggressive on raising rates.
That added to hopes of a positive outcome from the ongoing U.S.-China trade talks and helped the S&P 500 and Nasdaq end last week at five-month highs and notch their best weekly gain this year.
The benchmark index now remains just 3.8 percent away from its September all-time closing high.
Among other early movers, Facebook Inc dropped 1 percent after a top-rated analysts cut the rating on the company’s stock to “hold”.
Marriott International Inc shares rose 2.4 percent after the hotel chain announced a three-year plan to open more than 1,700 hotels around the world, return up to $11 billion to shareholders.
In economic news, the National Association of Home Builders’ housing market index is expected to show a reading of 63 in March, up from 62 in February. The data is due at 10:00 a.m. ET. (Reporting by Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)