Wall Street little changed at open ahead of US Fed Reserve statement

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - U.S. stock indexes were little changed on Wednesday as investors awaited the outcome of a Federal Reserve meeting on monetary policy.

While the central bank is expected to leave interest rates unchanged, investors will keep a close eye on its commentary for clues on the path of future hikes.

A report by the Labor Department showed core consumer price index (CPI), which excludes energy and food prices, rose more than expected in February. The improvement is likely to bolster the Fed's case for tightening monetary policy.

Economists polled by Reuters are looking at two possible rate hikes in 2016, but financial markets are pricing in only one hike of 25 basis points.

Financial markets have recovered from a heavy selloff in the first two months this year, but remain cautious as improving conditions could push the Fed to tighten its policy sooner than expected. "We've got some first-tier economic data (today) that is going to be analyzed, but largely ignored," said Alan Gayle, senior investment strategist at RidgeWorth Investments in Atlanta. "I suspect that traders are going to wait on the sidelines for the Fed results," Gayle said.

Global markets dipped ahead of the Fed statement.

At 9:37 a.m. ET (9:37 pm Singapore time), the Dow Jones industrial average was down 16.37 points, or 0.09 percent, at 17,235.16, the S&P 500 was down 1.58 points, or 0.08 per cent, at 2,014.35 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 5.94 points, or 0.13 per cent, at 4,722.73.

Seven of the 10 major S&P sectors were lower. The rate-sensitive utilities sector was down 0.84 percent, followed by a 0.5 per cent fall in consumer staples.

The S&P energy gained 0.8 per cent, as crude prices rose about 2 per cent after major producers agreed to meet next month to discuss freezing output, fueling hopes of measures to tackle a global glut.