Stocks mixed ahead of Fed, Biden's address to Congress

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U.S. stock futures were mixed Wednesday morning as traders sifted through earnings reports and awaited the Federal Reserve’s latest policy decision and details of President Biden’s tax plan. 

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were down 75 points, or 0.22%, while S&P 500 futures were up 0.01% and Nasdaq 100 futures were lower by 0.17%. 

With the Federal Reserve expected to hold its benchmark interest rate near zero at the conclusion of Wednesday’s meeting, traders will be paying close attention to any hints the central bank could begin to taper its asset purchase program. The decision will be released at 2 p.m. ET and Chairman Jerome Powell’s press conference will take place at 2:30 p.m. ET. 

The Fed’s decision will come hours ahead of Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress, where he is expected to lay out his plans to raise the top corporate tax rate and capital gains tax on wealthy Americans in order to pay for his plans to spend trillions of dollars on infrastructure and families.

In stocks, Dow Component Boeing Co.’s net loss narrowed in the three months through March as deliveries of its 737 Max jet resumed following the aircraft’s return to service. The quarterly loss was the sixth straight for the company. 

Fellow Dow member Microsoft Corp. beat on both the top and bottom lines as sales at its Azure cloud-computing unit grew 50% year over year. 

Rounding out the Dow, Visa Inc. topped Wall Street estimates as an online shopping boom helped offset weak travel demand. 

Elsewhere in earnings, Alphabet Inc. booked its second straight record quarterly profit, but warned search traffic and ad sales could slow as users return to their pre-pandemic lifestyles. The company said it will buy back $50 billion worth of shares. 

Starbucks Corp. beat on earnings and missed on revenue as international markets were slow to recover from the pandemic. The coffee giant raised its 2021 outlook for earnings and revenue. 

Apple Inc., Facebook Inc. and Ford Motor Co. are among the companies scheduled to report after Wednesday’s closing bell. 

In commodities, West Texas Intermediate crude oil climbed 39 cents to $63.33 per barrel and gold fell $13 to $1,765.80 an ounce.  

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Overseas markets rallied across the board.

France’s CAC 40 paced the advance in Europe, trading up 0.6%, while Britain’s FTSE 100 and Germany’s DAX 30 were higher by 0.41% and 0.38%, respectively. 

In Asia, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index advanced 0.45%, China’s Shanghai Composite index rose 0.42% and Japan’s Nikkei 225 ticked up 0.21%. 

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