US STOCKS-Futures gain as investors anticipate fresh Fed stimulus

Wed Dec 12, 2012 8:09am EST

* Fed announces monetary policy decision 12:30 p.m. ET

* Fed set to keep buying $85 bln per month in assets

* BlackRock sees S&P 500 at new peak by end-2013

* Futures up: S&P 3.7 pts, Dow 22 pts, Nasdaq 7.75 pts

By Angela Moon

NEW YORK, Dec 12 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures rose on Wednesday, setting Wall Street up for a sixth day of gains, as investors anticipated the U.S. Federal Reserve will announce a fresh stimulus plan to support the economy at the end of a two-day monetary policy meeting.

The Fed is expected to unveil a new round of bond buying later on Wednesday to boost a fragile economic recovery threatened by political wrangling over the government's budget. The monetary policy committee's decision is expected around 12:30 p.m. ET (1730 GMT)

"I think the market has already discounted that the Fed is going to announce more stimulus, so what's more important is what Chairman Bernanke says, which may give us clues on economic activity going forward," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.

"We might see a bit of selloff after Bernanke's comments, but we've been up for five straight days, so that shouldn't be surprising."

Negotiations intensified to avert the "fiscal cliff" - tax hikes and spending cuts that kick in early in 2013 - ahead of a year-end deadline as President Barack Obama and U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner spoke by phone on Tuesday after exchanging new proposals.

BlackRock, one of the world's biggest asset managers, expects the S&P 500 to scale new heights in 2013, with the broad measure of U.S. stocks reaching 1,600 by the end of the year. That's a gain of more than 12 percent from current levels and would surpass the index's previous peak of 1,576.09 set in 2007.

On the macroeconomic front, import and export price data is due at 8:30 a.m. ET (1330 GMT). Economists in a Reuters survey expect import prices edged down by 0.5 percent last month, while export prices remained flat.

S&P 500 futures rose 3.7 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 gained 22 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 7.75 points.

India's government announced an inquiry into lobbying practices by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on Wednesday after a report that the giant retailer had pressed U.S. lawmakers to help gain access to foreign markets.

Costco Wholesale Corp posted a 30 percent rise in quarterly profit, beating expectations, as the largest U.S. warehouse club chain saw sales rise and got a lift from higher membership fees.

Sprint Nextel Corp is in talks with Intel Corp and Comcast Corp to buy out their stakes in the U.S. wireless provider Clearwire Corp, two people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.

U.S. stocks rose on Tuesday, led by technology companies. The S&P 500 closed at its highest since Election Day on Nov. 6.

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