US STOCKS-Futures flat before Fed meeting on future of stimulus

Last Updated: Tue, Sep 17, 2013 12:30 hrs

* Federal Reserve begins two-day policy meeting

* Apple in focus after closing below 200-day moving average

* Consumer price index, housing market index ahead

* Futures: S&P flat; Dow off 2 pts; Nasdaq up 1.5 pts

By Angela Moon

NEW YORK, Sept 17 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were little changed before the start of the Federal Reserve's two-day meeting on Tuesday that could lay out plans to begin reducing its stimulus measures.

Investors were hesitant to make big moves before the decision by the policy-making Federal Open Market Committee on whether to scale back its monthly $85 billion in bonds to aid the economy. Many investors expect the Fed will taper purchases a modest $10 billion a month.

The FOMC meeting statement will be released on Wednesday followed by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's news conference.

"We are finally getting to a point where the Fed is to taper or indicate that they are likely to taper. It's been discounted by investors at this point and frankly, I would expect, whatever the decision may be, to leave the market relatively unchanged," Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management in New York.

"Investors will now move from broad economic news that seemed significant in the very quiet summer to specific company news as we enter the key fourth quarter. We will see more interest in company forecasts and economic news like retail sales."

S&P 500 futures were flat and in line with 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 lost 2 points, while Nasdaq 100 futures rose 1.5 points.

Market sentiment was also pressured by President Barack Obama who warned Republicans in Congress he will not negotiate over an extension of the U.S. debt ceiling as part of a budget fight.

The comments from the president came after former Treasury Sectary Lawrence Summers withdrew as a candidate for Federal Reserve chairman, lifting some market uncertainty about a likely contentious confirmation process. Summers was seen as more prone to wind down stimulus than the new front-runner, Fed Vicewoman Chairwoman Janet Yellen.

In company news, Apple Inc could be in spotlight after the tech giant closed below its 200-day moving average for the first time since August 2012. The stock finished at $450.12, its lowest since July 29. In premarket trade on Tuesday, Apple shares were down 0.7 percent at $446.88.

Pandora Media Inc shares were down 4.3 percent at $22.95 in premarket trade a day after the company warned that its business is slowing and proposed a follow-on offering of 10 million shares for capital expenditures, according to a regulatory filing.

In economic data, August's consumer price index is due for release at 8:30 a.m. (1230 GMT). The NAHB housing market index is due at 10 a.m.

Adobe Systems Inc is due to report results after the close of market trading.

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