Investing.com - Here are the top five things you need to know in financial markets on Wednesday, March 21:
1. Fed Rate Decision, Powell Press Conference In Focus
The Federal Reserve is widely expected to hike its fed funds target rate range by a quarter point at the conclusion of its first policy meeting under Chairman Jerome Powell at 2:00PM ET (1800GMT).
That would put it in a range between 1.5%-1.75%, the highest benchmark rate since September 2008.
Powell is to hold what will be a closely-watched press conference 30 minutes after the release of the Fed's statement. It will be the first time he faces questions from the media as head of the central bank.
The Fed will also release new forecasts for economic growth and interest rates, known as the "dot-plot". The latter has been the topic of market speculation for weeks.
The U.S. central bank projected late last year that it would lift rates three times in 2018, but some investors believe the fiscal stimulus and recent hints of inflation pressures will push policymakers to add an additional increase to the mix.
That could result in a jump in bond yields and a stock market sell-off.
2. Dollar Slips, Treasury Yield Tick Up As Traders Await Fed
The U.S. dollar was a shade lower, while Treasury yields ticked higher, as investors looked ahead to the outcome of the Fed's meeting for fresh clues on the pace of monetary policy tightening for the remainder of the year.
The dollar index, which gauges the U.S. currency against a basket of six major rivals, dipped 0.3% to 89.70 in early trade. It reached its highest in almost three weeks on Tuesday at 90.02.
In the bond market, the U.S. 10-year Treasury yield inched up to 2.892%.
The more Fed-sensitive two-year yield stood at 2.345%, just below a nine-and-a-half-year high of 2.349% touched on Tuesday, while the yield on the five-year note was at 2.695%, not far from its highest since April 2010.
In addition to the Fed, Wednesday's calendar features data on existing home sales at 10AM ET (1400GMT).
3. U.S. Stock Futures Point To Lower Open
U.S. stock futures pointed to a lower open on Wall Street, as investors prepared for a likely hike in U.S. interest rates and guidance on how many more to expect this year.
The blue-chip Dow futures slumped 30 points, or around 0.1%, the S&P 500 futures dropped 3 points, or about 0.1%, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 futures lost 29 points, or roughly 0.4%.
Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) shares looked set for another down day, falling 2.4% in premarket action. The stock has lost more than 9% over the past two sessions, wiping around $60 billion off its market value, as a firestorm continued over third parties access to users’ personal data.
Elsewhere, in Europe, the continent's major bourses traded mostly lower in mid-morning trade. The pan-European Stoxx 600 index, the region's broadest measure of share prices, edged down 0.3%, as more cyclical sectors such as financials, materials and industrials retreated.
Earlier, Asian equities closed mixed, with some markets giving up significant early gains and finishing the day lower. Volume in the region was muted because of a holiday in Japan.
4. Oil Prices Rise Ahead Of EIA Supply Data
The U.S. Energy Information Administration will release its weekly report on oil supplies at 10:30AM ET (1430GMT), amid analyst expectations for a gain of 2.6 million barrels.
The American Petroleum Institute said late Tuesday that U.S. oil inventories fell by 2.7 million barrels in the week ended March 16. There are often sharp divergences between the API estimates and the official figures from EIA.
Oil prices were hovering near their highest in three weeks, with WTI crude futures rising 30 cents, or 0.5% to $63.84 per barrel, while London-traded Brent crude futures were at $67.80 per barrel, up 38 cents, or 0.6%.
5. Bitcoin, Other Cryptos Rally After Productive G20 Talks
Bitcoin prices surged above the $9,000-level for the first time in six days, as sentiment improved after finance ministers from the world’s top 20 economies expressed no desire to call for a clampdown on the crypto markets.
The group of 20 nations (G20) said on Tuesday they agreed to “monitor” the movement in crypto, while keeping the door open to regulate the booming industry at a later stage.
The world's biggest virtual currency by market cap rose around 8% to $9,046, marking a gain of more than $600.
Prices of other popular digital coins also jumped, with Ethereum, the world’s second largest cryptocurrency by market cap, rallying about 10% to $572.97.
The third largest cryptocurrency Ripple gained roughly 4% to trade at $0.69953.