By Steve Goldstein, MarketWatch
LONDON (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures made modest gains Wednesday as traders waited to see if the U.S. Federal Reserve will indicate that its unprecedented loose monetary policy is coming to an end.
S&P 500 futures rose 2.9 points to 1,070.20 and Nasdaq 100 futures added 4.75 points to 1,739.00. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 18 points.
U.S. stocks rose Tuesday, taking the gains for the S&P 500 index to 10 of the last 13 sessions. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 51 points, the S&P 500 added 7 points and the Nasdaq Composite rose 8 points.
Behind the recent strength is the idea that the Federal Reserve will keep its monetary stimulus unchecked for some time. No rate hike is expected when the Federal Open Market Committee announces its decision at 2:15 p.m. Eastern, and attention will turn to the statement that explains the move, and in particular, whether it will continue with a program to buy $1.25 trillion worth of mortgage-backed securities.
The Fed has already purchased about two-thirds of that amount.
"The Fed is unlikely to risk destabilizing the market by withdrawing policy support from the mortgage market at this time and is likely to leave the size of its planned purchases of agency mortgage-backed securities and agency debt unchanged for now, although there is a chance that the Fed will choose to send a signal about slowing the pace of purchases, i.e. extending the time allotted for purchases beyond the end of the year," said Lena Komileva, head of G7 market economics at Tullett Prebon, in a note to clients.
The dollar was a bit weaker against major rivals on Wednesday, notably against the British pound after minutes from the last Bank of England meeting didn't mention a rumored cut in the rates paid to commercial banks for money parked at the central bank.
Oil and gold futures also clung to tight ranges.
Also of note in Washington, the Senate Finance Committee will continue debate on health-care legislation while Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is testifying on financial regulation.
Of stocks in the spotlight, General Mills /zigman2/quotes/206659526/composite GIS +1.33% rose nearly 4% in premarket trade as the cereal maker reported a 51% profit rise and hiked its fiscal 2010 earnings view.
US Airways dropped 8% on a plan to sell 26.3 million shares.
Cemex /zigman2/quotes/203703444/composite CX +0.23% fell 1.9% to $12.75 after pricing the sale of its stock at $12.50 per U.S.-listed share. Separately, the company was among those probed by Spain and European Union regulators over alleged antitrust practices.
Overseas, Asia stocks were generally weaker with the Shanghai Composite retreating 1.9%. Europe stocks rose, with the Dow Jones Stoxx 600 rising 0.6%.