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MW: U.S. stocks poised for tepid gain as traders await Fed decision
Wall Street is set for modest gains Wednesday, but with investors cautious ahead of the Federal Reserve’s rate announcement that is likely to include the third rate hike in 10 years.

Market participants were also watching the election in the Netherlands, where populist, far-right candidate Geert Wilders is vying to win the most seat in parliament.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average YMM7, +0.15% rose 32 points, or 0.2%, to 20,835, while those for the S&P 500 index ESM7, +0.20% climbed 4.40 points, or 0.2%, to 2,367.50. Futures for the Nasdaq-100 index NQM7, +0.16% gained 9 points, or 0.2%, to 5,394.50.

The gains come on the back of a downbeat session on Tuesday, when the S&P 500 SPX, -0.34% lost 0.3% and the Dow average DJIA, -0.21% fell 0.2% after a persistent slump in oil prices.

On Wednesday, market attention shifted from oil to the coming Fed decision and vote in the Netherlands.

‘Game-changer’ for markets: “The day ahead certainly has the potential to be something of a game changer for financial markets. Dutch voters go to the polls in what is being seen as a critical test of support for the idea of a unified Europe. Any wavering here certainly has the potential to unsettle the common currency,” said Tony Cross, market analyst for TopTradr, in a note.

Read: Who is the ‘Dutch Trump’ Geert Wilders, and why should investors care?

“We also have U.S. inflation readings due, preceding the anticipated rate hike from the Fed. Although it seems unlikely today’s data will derail plans, any weakness here could raise questions over further policy tightening later in the year, putting notable pressures on Treasury yields as a result,” he said.

Investors have already priced in a rate hike from the Fed on Wednesday, but any surprises could still come from Fed Chairwoman Yellen and what she says about rates and the strength of the U.S. economy. The so-called dot plot that captures the central banker’s projections on future rate hikes is expected to send a hawkish signal.

The rate announcement comes out at 2 p.m. Eastern Time, followed by Yellen’s press conference at 2:30 p.m.

The ICE Dollar Index DXY, -0.21% was down 0.1% at 101.59 ahead of the news.

Economic news: Ahead of the central-bank news, investors are faced with a raft of economic data. The Consumer Price Index, retail sales and the Empire state index all come out at 8:30 a.m., followed by readings on home builders and business inventories at 10 a.m.

See: MarketWatch’s economic calendar

Stocks to watch: Shares of Golden Ocean Group Ltd. GOGL, +2.93% rallied 9% ahead of the bell after the shipping company said it had successfully completed its $60 million share offering.

Southwestern Energy Co. SWN, -2.89% climbed 5.4% before open after Citigroup lifted the company to buy from neutral.

Twitter Inc. TWTR, +0.72% could also move after at least dozens of prominent accounts were hacked early Wednesday. The hacker posted messages supporting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his diplomatic feud with the Netherlands and Germany.

AT&T Inc. T, -0.66% was also in the spotlight after the European Commission approved the telecom company’s $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner Inc. TWX, -0.26%

After the market closes, Oracle Corp. ORCL, +0.49% Williams-Sonoma Inc. WSM, -0.21% and Guess? Inc. GES, +1.51% are slated to report earnings.

Other markets: Oil prices CLJ7, +2.12% LCOK7, +1.92% rebounded after settling at their lowest levels since late November on Tuesday following data that showed major oil producer Saudi Arabia has started to increase production.

Stocks in Asia closed mostly lower as investors there waited for the Fed news. European stocks SXXP, +0.26% were eking out small gains.

Metals were mixed, with gold GCJ7, -0.07% lower, but other metals trading higher.