* Alcoa higher in premarket after earnings
* Fed minutes on tap at 2pm ET
* Intuitive Surgical slumps after outlook
* Futures up: Dow 53 pts, S&P 4.5 pts, Nasdaq 12.5 pts
By Chuck Mikolajczak
NEW YORK, April 9 U.S. stocks were set for a
modestly higher open on Wednesday, putting the S&P 500 on track
for a second straight advance, in the wake of earnings from
Alcoa and ahead of the minutes from the last Federal Reserve
* Alcoa Inc gained 4.2 percent to $13.06 in premarket
trade after the former Dow component reported a decline in first
quarter adjusted profit on Tuesday as aluminum prices dropped,
but earnings came in ahead of analysts' expectations.
* S&P 500 companies' first-quarter earnings are projected to
have increased just 1 percent from a year ago, Thomson Reuters
data showed. The forecast is down sharply from the start of the
year, when profit growth was estimated at 6.5 percent.
* The Federal Reserve is expected to release the minutes
from its March 18-19 meeting at 2 p.m. (1800 GMT). The Fed needs
to be more specific about what economic conditions would prompt
it to raise interest rates from current rock-bottom levels, a
pair of top Fed officials normally at odds on policy said on
* Earnings season gets under way this week, with results due
from retailer Bed, Bath & Beyond after the close, while
financials JPMorgan Chase & Co and Wells Fargo & Co
close out the week with results on Friday.
* Investors will be looking at the impact of harsh winter
weather on first-quarter earnings, and signs of optimism for the
* U.S. stocks advanced in the prior session to snap a
three-day losing streak as investors bought beaten-down social
media and Internet shares.
* The benchmark S&P 500 index managed to hold above
its 50-day moving average around 1,840, a key support level. The
index has been able to successfully defend the 1,840 area
several times over the past month.
* S&P 500 e-mini futures rose 4.5 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
53 points and Nasdaq 100 futures added 12.5 points.
* General Motors Co shares lost 1.8 percent to $33.90
before the opening bell. The National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration said the automaker is being fined $7,000 a day
for missing an April 3 deadline to provide information about its
recall of 2.6 million cars for defective ignition switches.
Morgan Stanley subsequently cut the stock to "underweight."
* Intuitive Surgical Inc estimated first-quarter
revenue well below analysts' average expectation, mainly due to
a 60 percent drop in sales of its flagship da Vinci robot
system. Its shares slumped 9.2 percent to $444.95 in premarket
* Constant Contact Inc jumped 15.2 percent to
$25.25 before the opening bell after the online marketer said it
expects quarterly revenue to rise by more than 15 percent.
(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Nick Zieminski)