* Fed statement at 2 p.m. ET; Yellen speech to follow
* Feb retail sales record smallest increase in 6 months
* Twitter slips after prominent accounts hacked
* Indexes up: Dow 0.15 pct, S&P 0.21 pct, Nasdaq 0.18 pct
(Updates to open)
By Tanya Agrawal
March 15 U.S. stocks opened slightly higher on
Wednesday as oil prices rebounded and investors counted down to
the conclusion of the Federal Reserve's two-day meeting, where
the central bank is widely expected to raise rates for the first
time this year.
The Fed is scheduled to release its latest policy statement
along with updated economic forecasts at 2 p.m. ET (1800 GMT).
Fed Chair Janet Yellen is due to hold a press conference half an
Traders have priced in more than a 90 percent chance of a
quarter point rate increase, according to Fed fund futures.
Attention is turning to whether the U.S. central bank will
signal an even faster pace of monetary tightening this year than
the current three rate hikes that it projected at the December
The U.S. economy has been strengthening, with the labor
market nearing full employment and inflation perking up. Markets
are also betting on a potential economic boost from President
Donald Trump's proposed fiscal policies.
"A rate hike now and another in June would certainly leave
the door open to four increases and stop the Fed falling behind
the curve if the U.S. economy does respond strongly to either
Trump's stimulus plans – should they be enacted this year – or
the prospect of them," said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst
at Oanda in London.
The S&P 500 has risen 10.6 percent since the election,
spurred by optimism over Trump's policies but the major indexes
have been stuck in a tight trading range this month following a
slew of hawkish comments from Fed members.
At 9:33 a.m. ET the Dow Jones industrial average was
up 31.03 points, or 0.15 percent, at 20,868.4 and the S&P 500
was up 5.04 points, or 0.21 percent, at 2,370.49.
The Nasdaq Composite was up 10.63 points, or 0.18
percent, at 5,867.44.
All 11 major S&P sectors were higher, with the energy
index's 0.79 percent rise leading the gainers.
Oil prices rebounded on Wednesday, lifted by a surprise
drawdown in U.S. inventories and data from the International
Energy Agency suggested OPEC cuts should create a crude deficit
in the first half of 2017.
Shares of oil majors Exxon and Chevron were
up about 0.4 percent.
Investors were also assessing data on U.S. retail sales,
which registered their smallest increase in six months in
Other data showed consumer prices barely rose in February
but the underlying trend remained consistent with rising
inflation. The Labor Department said its Consumer Price Index
ticked up 0.1 percent last month, after jumping 0.6 percent in
Twitter was down 1 percent at $15.16 after a number of
prominent accounts on the microblogging website were hacked.
Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 2,052
to 490. On the Nasdaq, 1,481 issues rose and 609 fell.
The S&P 500 index showed 23 new 52-week highs and one new
low, while the Nasdaq recorded 52 new highs and 11 new lows.
(Reporting by Tanya Agrawal; Editing by Anil D'Silva & Shri