March 20, 2019 / 11:21 AM / 3 months ago

US STOCKS-Futures muted as investors await Fed outlook

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* Futures: Dow, S&P and Nasdaq flat

* Fed chief Powell to hold press conference at 2:30 p.m. ET

* FedEx drops after cutting 2019 profit forecast

* General Mills jumps after profit forecast lift

By Medha Singh

March 20 (Reuters) - U.S. stock futures were little changed on Wednesday as investors waited for more clarity on the Federal Reserve’s interest rate outlook for the year, while some trade worries still lingered.

The U.S. central bank is expected to keep the fed funds rate unchanged and lower the number of hikes projected for the rest of the year as it wraps up a two-day policy meeting, followed by a statement at 2 p.m. ET and a press conference by Fed Chairman Jerome Powell half an hour later.

The policy statement will also shed light on long-awaited details regarding the Fed’s plans to stop reducing its holdings of Treasury bonds.

“Today’s price action is going to be focused mainly on the Fed chairman’s speech,” Naeem Aslam, chief market analyst at Think Markets UK Ltd in London said in a client note.

“Powell will be grilled on his future plan with respect to the monetary policy and he will have to continue to stress on one keyword, ‘patience’.”

At 6:57 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 0.08 percent. S&P 500 e-minis were down 0.06 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 0.02 percent.

Optimism that the Fed will remain patient in raising borrowing costs and hopes that United States and China will resolve their trade spat helped U.S. stocks erase most of their losses from late last year.

Following a 13 percent rally this year, the benchmark S&P 500 now remains 3.5 percent away from its record closing high in September.

Wall Street’s main indexes ended mixed on Tuesday, after a report that U.S. was concerned that China was pushing back against American demands in trade talks. News that the world’s biggest economies will reconvene face-to-face negotiations next week, did little to support the markets.

“It was pretty much given that only a negative surprise was going to have an impact on the markets, when it comes to the trade negotiations saga, because all the positive aspect was already priced in,” Aslam said.

Among stocks, FedEx Corp, seen as a bellwether for the global economy, fell 6.7 percent in premarket trade after the package delivery company cut its 2019 profit forecast for the second time in three months.

General Mills Inc jumped 5.7 percent after the Cheerios cereal maker reported an 8 percent rise in quarterly sales and also raised its full-year profit forecast. (Reporting by Medha Singh and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)

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