US STOCKS-Futures edge lower on caution ahead of Fed rate decision


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      Futures down: Dow 0.17%, S&P 0.24%, Nasdaq 0.43% 

       March 22 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures fell on
Wednesday in the run-up to a crucial interest rate decision by
the Federal Reserve, which is widely expected to raise rates by
a quarter percentage point despite the recent turmoil in the
banking sector.
    The Fed's two-day monetary policy meeting will end at 2 p.m.
ET (1800 GMT) on Wednesday. The expected rate hike of 25 basis
points is a turnaround from the steep 50 basis points rate rise
anticipated before the recent banking turmoil, triggered by the
recent collapse of two regional banks. 
    Markets will also be watching out for a news conference by
Fed Chair Jerome Powell following the interest rate decision,
looking for cues about the central bank's future path in his
    "There will be considerable psychology at work, as a pause
at this stage could inflame worries by being taken to indicate
that policymakers are rattled," said Susannah Streeter, head of
money and markets at Hargreaves Lansdown.
    "Instead, they (the Fed) may prefer to shore up confidence
by keeping to a pre-set path for now, particularly given that
stability has returned."
    Wall Street's main indexes notched gains for the past two
straight sessions, after the rescue of Credit Suisse  CS.N  as
well as measures by central banks to boost liquidity helped
soothe some worries about risks to other banks.
    However, a scramble by troubled regional U.S. lender First
Republic Bank  FRC.N  to secure a capital infusion has kept
alive some fears about the banking sector.
    Shares of First Republic edged 3.0% higher in premarket
trade, with a Bloomberg News report on Tuesday stating the
bank's rescue could rely on backing from the U.S. government to
facilitate a deal.
    Shares of its peers PacWest Bancorp  PACW.O  and Western
Alliance Bancorp  WAL.N  inched about 1% higher in choppy
    U.S. Treasury yields inched lower amid the cautious mood,
with that on the two-year note last at 4.13%. 
    At 5:00 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis  1YMcv1  were down 57 points,
or 0.17%, S&P 500 e-minis  EScv1  were down 9.5 points, or
0.24%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis  NQcv1  were down 54.75 points, or
    Among other stocks, shares of Nike Inc  NKE.N  fell 1.6% in
premarket trade after the sports apparel maker raised its
full-year revenue outlook on Tuesday but warned of margin
    Shares of GameStop Corp  GME.N  jumped 38.9% after the
company posted a surprise profit for the fourth quarter, helped
by lower costs and job cuts.

 (Reporting by Amruta Khandekar; Editing by Nivedita

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