(Reuters) – Stock index futures pointed to a slightly higher open on Wall Street on Wednesday, with futures for the S&P 500, the Dow Jones and the Nasdaq 100 up 0.04 percent to 0.2 percent.
At 12:30 p.m. ET, the Federal Open Market Committee will release a statement on the interest rate policy. In a Reuters poll, dealers expect the fed funds rate will remain in the 0.0 percent to 0.25 percent range. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will hold media briefing at 1815 GMT.
Bernanke will likely use his first-ever news conference on monetary policy to hammer home the case for a patient approach to withdrawing the central bank's extensive support for the U.S. economy. He will face the press in the first regularly scheduled news conference by a Fed chairman in the central bank's 97-year history.
The dollar fell broadly, marking a fresh nadir against the Swiss franc and a 29-year trough against the Australian dollar. Crude oil prices also declined as investors awaited details of the Fed's assessment of the economy.
Major companies reporting results include Boeing (BA.N), Whirlpool (WHR.N), eBay (EBAY.O), Corning (GLW.N) and WellPoint (WLP.N).
At 1230 GMT, Commerce Department releases March durable goods orders. Economists expect a 2.0 percent increase in orders versus a 0.6 percent drop in February.
Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) is to buy Swiss medical devices maker Synthes Inc (SYST.VX) for 19 billion Swiss francs ($21.59 billion) in its largest ever buy, boosting its surgical business and reshaping the wider industry.
Mortgage Bankers Association releases at 1100 GMT Weekly Mortgage Market Index for the week ended April 22, versus the prior week. The mortgage market index read 467.5 and the refinancing index was 1,975.2 in the previous week.
Nasdaq OMX Group (NDAQ.O) and IntercontinentalExchange Inc (ICE.N) appealed directly to NYSE Euronext (NYX.N) stockholders on Tuesday, asking them to press the Big Board's directors to sit down to talk about their joint bid.
Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago releases at 1230 GMT its Chicago Fed Midwest Manufacturing Index for March. The index read 83.3 in the prior month.
News Corp (NWSA.O) is expected to receive bids for Myspace by the end of this week, according to a person familiar with the matter.
At 1500 GMT, Labor Department issues annual revisions to Employment Cost Index.
Shares in Amazon (AMZN.O) briefly turned higher in after-hours trade on Tuesday after it posted results. Costco (COST.O) was up 0.8 percent after the company announced late on Tuesday the expansion of its stock repurchase program and an increase in its quarterly cash dividend.
Tokyo stocks (.N225) gained 1.4 percent after a batch of Japanese and U.S. corporate earnings came in better than expected, but the FTSEurofirst 300 (.FTEU3) index of top European shares fell 0.2 percent.
On Tuesday, the Dow Jones industrial average (.DJI), the Standard & Poor's 500 Index (.SPX) and the Nasdaq Composite Index (.IXIC) rose 0.8 to 0.9 percent. (Reporting by Atul Prakash; Editing by Louise Heavens)
LISBON (Reuters) – The EU/IMF team conducting talks for Portugal's bailout is considering giving the country more time to reach the budget deficit targets set for this year and next, a business newspaper reported on Wednesday.
European Union and International Monetary Fund officials in Lisbon have discussed delaying Portugal's goals of cutting its budget deficit to 4.6 percent of gross domestic product this year and then to 3 percent next year, Jornal de Negocios reported without giving details of its sources.
Portugal has twice in the last month revised its budget deficit figure for 2010 to conform with Eurostat's methodology and include public-private partnerships, putting the deficit at 9.1 percent of GDP, compared to a goal of 7.3 percent.
Jornal Negocios said the upward revisions have forced the so-called EU/IMF "troika" to consider allowing Portugal to hit the 3 percent deficit target only in 2013 to ensure the country's fiscal consolidation effort remains credible.
Portugal earlier this month became the third euro zone country to request an international bailout after Greece and Ireland. The aid package is estimated at 80 billion euros.
The paper added that Joao Proenca, leader of Portugal's second-biggest union UGT, had been told about the possibility during a meeting with the head of the European Commission team.
"At the meeting, the head of the team said Portugal only has to meet the 3 percent deficit target in 2013, adding clearly that it does not have to be next year," Proenca told the paper.
Caretaker Prime Minister Jose Socrates said in an interview on Tuesday that he would "fight for a plan which does least harm to the country" during the bailout negotiations.
(Reporting by Shrikesh Laxmidas; editing by Patrick Graham)
TOKYO – Japan's top cosmetics maker Shiseido said Wednesday its quarterly profit plunged 62 percent due to tumbling domestic sales following last month's earthquake and tsunami.
Shiseido Co. Ltd. said its January-March net profit shrank to 3.8 billion yen ($46.5 million) from 10 billion yen a year earlier. Revenue edged up 2.3 percent year-on-year to 183.7 billion yen as strong foreign sales offset weakness in Japan.
Sales in Japan, which account for over half of Shiseido's total revenue, took a beating due to sluggish demand following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Shiseido said domestic sales fell 8.7 percent to 95.8 billion yen.
"Domestic demand was already weak before the March tsunami, and then the disaster really depressed consumer sentiment in Japan. Falling demand at home dragged down our net profit," said Shiseido spokeswoman Megumi Kinukawa.
But demand abroad was brisk during the quarter. Shiseido's foreign sales jumped 18 percent year-on-year to 87.9 billion yen. Sales in key regions — Asia, Europe and North America — all posted double-digit growth from the same quarter last year.
In the fiscal year ended March, Shiseido's net profit also dropped 62 percent — to 12.8 billion yen with revenue up 4.1 percent to 670 billion yen.
In the current fiscal year ending March 2012, Shiseido forecasts its net profit will jump by 64.2 percent to 21 billion yen on revenue rising 1.4 percent to 680 billion yen.
Shares in Shiseido fell 3.9 percent to close at 1,360 yen on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Wednesday.