March 20, 2013 / 1:23 PM / 4 years ago

Wall Street set for higher open with focus on Fed

Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange, March 19, 2013.Brendan McDermid/Files

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wall Street was set for a higher open on Wednesday with investors' focus on the Federal Reserve's policy statement and news conference by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke later in the day.

The Fed looks set to sustain its $85 billion monthly bond-buying stimulus despite improving U.S. economic data as a new flare-up in the euro zone crisis from Cyprus's troubles reminds officials of a risky global environment.

The Fed will release the Federal Open Market Committee statement and the Summary of Economic Projections at 2:00 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT). Bernanke's news conference is due around 2:30 p.m.

"The market will try really hard to read between the lines, especially after the last one, to see if there are any changes in the Fed's stance," said Adam Sarhan, chief executive of Sarhan Capital in New York.

"Fundamentals are improving but we are still not at the critical level where the economy and the stock market can grow organically. So the market reaction, if there are any changes, could be big."

Cypriot leaders held crisis talks on Wednesday to avert financial meltdown after the country's parliament rejected the terms of a European Union bailout, throwing efforts to rescue the latest casualty of the euro zone debt crisis into disarray.

FedEx Corp (FDX.N) reported a 31 percent drop in quarterly profit due to restructuring costs and weakness in its air freight express business. The stock was off 3.8 percent in premarket trade.

JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) has reached a $546 million settlement with the trustee liquidating the failed broker-dealer unit of MF Global Holdings MFGLQ.PK, a court filing showed.

A key U.S. bank regulator has called for improvement in the management of JPMorgan Chase on concerns linked to the multibillion-dollar "London Whale" trading loss last year, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing knowledgeable sources.

EU lawmakers are expected to agree on Wednesday to bar bankers in Europe from getting bonuses bigger than their salary, introducing the first cap of its kind globally.

S&P 500 futures added 8 points and were above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures added 69 points and Nasdaq 100 futures gained 19.75 points.

The S&P 500 has ended lower for the past three sessions as investors booked profits from a recent rally that took the Dow to a 10-day winning streak last week and as concerns about Cyprus and possible contagion to other parts of Europe curbed risk appetite. The CBOE Volatility index VIX, Wall Street's so-called fear gauge, is up 27 percent this week.

But despite the fact that it spiked significantly over the past two days, it still has a long way to go to even reach the 2013 high of 19.28, said Bryan Sapp, senior trading analyst at Schaeffer's Investment Research.

Roche Holding ROG.VX and a buyout group comprising KKR & Co LP (KKR.N) and Hellman & Friedman LLC have joined the bidding for Life Technologies Corp (LIFE.O), a genetic testing company coveted for its advanced diagnostics and steady cash flow, according to people familiar with the matter.

General Mills (GIS.N), the U.S. maker of Yoplait yogurt, Cheerios cereal and Progresso soups, reported a higher quarterly profit on Wednesday, helped by the recent acquisitions of Yoki Alimentos in Brazil and Yoplait Canada. The stock was down 0.3 percent in premarket trade.

Reporting by Angela Moon; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama, Nick Zieminski and James Dalgleish

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