Stock futures point to lower open to begin week as investors tentative ahead of Fed meeting

Investors are entering the new trading week tentatively as the Federal Reserve meets to discuss interest-rate policy. Stock futures fell slightly Monday.

Overseas markets mostly fell.

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The Federal Reserve is scheduled to meet Tuesday. While it is unlikely to raise a key interest rate from historic lows, traders will be looking for clues in the Fed’s statement as to when it might make a move.

Investors have been factoring in an eventual rate hike, but any signs that the move will be made sooner rather than later is likely to — at least in the short-term — hurt stocks.

Stocks pushed higher last week after investors grew more confident about the health of the financial sector. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index and Nasdaq composite index both hit their highest levels in more than a year.

Sen. Chris Dodd, a Democrat from Connecticut and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, is expected to present a bill Monday designed to overhaul financial regulation.

Ahead of the Fed’s meeting, investors will also receive reports on manufacturing and industrial production Monday.

Economists polled by Thomson Reuters predict the Fed will say industrial production fell 0.1 percent in February, breaking a streak of seven straight months of growth. The small drop in output from the nation’s factories, mines and utilities is likely due to bad weather throughout the country that likely led to a drop in the number of manufacturing hours worked.

The report is due out at 9:15 a.m. EDT.

Ahead of the opening bell, Dow Jones industrial average futures fell 13, or 0.1 percent, to 10,560. Standard & Poor’s 500 index futures dropped 2.60, or 0.2 percent, to 1,144.00, while Nasdaq 100 index futures fell 5.00, or 0.3 percent, to 1,919.25.

A separate report on manufacturing in the New York region showed a smaller-than-expected drop in activity. The Empire State manufacturing index likely fell 22.9 from 24.9 in February. Economists had predicted a drop to 21.5 this month.

Reports on housing starts, inflation and initial jobless claims are all due later in the week.

Major indexes traded in a narrow range Friday after a mixed bag of economic reports. Better-than-expected data on retail sales was offset by a disappointing reading on consumer sentiment.

The Dow was able to edge out a 13-point gain, which pushed the index to its highest close in about two months.

Meanwhile, bond prices rose slightly. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, was unchanged at 3.70 percent, compared with late Friday.

The dollar rose against other major currencies. Gold prices also rose.

Overseas, Japan‘s Nikkei stock average rose less than 0.1 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.1 percent, Germany’s DAX index rose less than 0.1 percent, and France’s CAC-40 fell 0.2 percent.

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