Thursday September 17th


U.S. futures mildly lower before FED

U.S. stock index futures held a touch lower on Thursday as traders looked to the Federal Reserve and today's interest rate decision. The Fed's Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) rate move is expected to be announced at 2:00 p.m. ET, with a press conference from Fed Chair Janet Yellen set to follow at 2:30 p.m. Whether the Fed raises rates or not, markets may move more on its words than actions. Traders have been betting against a central bank rate hike, so news of such an increase could get a negative response. But some say markets would be more relieved in the event of a rate rise if the Fed assures a slow path higher for rates, and it could do that in the interest rate forecasts of its members and again in its post-meeting news briefing. The markets will also seek a clear explanation of why the Fed did not hike, if it holds rates steady. U.S. stock index futures held mildly lower after a solid two-day rally that many attributed to expectations the Fed would not raise rates. In Europe, the pan-European Stoxx 600 index was little changed, with investors keenly awaiting the Fed's decision. In Asia, the Shanghai Composite index closed down 2.08 percent amid volatility, while Japan's Nikkei finished 1.43 percent higher. In economic news, initial jobless claims declined slightly to 264,000. August housing starts fell about 3 percent. The Philly Fed Index is released at 10:00 a.m. On the earnings front, Rite Aid reported before the bell. Adobe Systems was expected to report after the bell. Rite Aid posted quarterly profit of 2 cents per share, compared to estimates of 4 cents a share, though revenue was above forecasts. Rite Aid also trimmed its earnings guidance slightly to reflect recent sales trends and additional amortization expense from its acquisition of pharmacy benefits manager EnvisionRX. Oil prices slipped below $50 a barrel on Thursday after weak Japanese data sounded alarm bells over the prospects for global growth, outweighing the bullish impact of a bigger-than-expected decline in U.S. crude oil stocks. Brent crude oil was down 74 cents at $49.01 a barrel by 8:12 a.m. EDT, after hitting an early high of $50.14. U.S. light crude oil was down 53 cents at $46.62 a barrel. Gold weakened on Thursday, after its biggest jump in a month, ahead a Federal Reserve policy decision that has investors divided on whether it will hike U.S. interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade. The U.S. central bank started a two-day policy meeting on Wednesday, with a decision on interest rates expected at 1800 GMT on Thursday. Spot gold was down 0.15 percent at $1,117.36 an ounce. The metal gained 1.3 percent on Wednesday in its biggest daily jump since Aug. 20, helped by data showing U.S. consumer prices unexpectedly fell in August.