Wall Street opens higher as tech, energy stocks gain, Fed meet in focus

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Wall Street was higher on Wednesday morning, boosted by gains in technology and energy stocks, ahead of the Federal Reserve's decision later in the day.

The Fed is scheduled to release a statement at 2:00 p.m. ET (2 a.m Thursday morning Singapore time), followed by Chair Janet Yellen's press conference. While the chances of a hike are marginal this time, investors will comb the central bank's statements for clues about a December hike.

US stocks were also supported by the Bank of Japan's decision to adopt a "yield curve control" under which it will buy long-term government bonds to keep 10-year bond yields at current levels around zero per cent.

The BOJ also said it would not hesitate to ease monetary policy to support growth.

The S&P technology sector rose 0.47 per cent, supported by a 0.7 per cent gain in Microsoft which announced a US$40 billion (S$54.5 billion) share buy back program.

The stock was also the top influence on the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq.

The dollar index was flat after touching a near two-week high on the BOJ policy announcement. The yen fell 0.96 per cent against the dollar and gold rose to its highest in more than two weeks.

"The BOJ made some dovish comments and that has given investors an early push on the likelihood of no action from the Fed," said Andre Bakhos, managing director at Janlyn Capital. "However, we could see a violent reversal of early-morning fortunes after hearing what the Fed says about future rates."

The Fed raised interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade last December but weak economic data and global uncertainty have prevented it from raising the rates further.

The central bank is widely expected to hold on to current rates even in its November meeting which falls close to the US Presidential elections. The overall consensus is for a rate hike in December.

Traders have priced in a poor 15 per cent chance of a rate hike on Wednesday, while the odds rise to about 59 per cent for December, according to the CME Group's FedWatch tool.

At 9:44 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 74.82 points, or 0.41 percent, at 18,204.78. The S&P 500 was up 9.44 points, or 0.44 per cent, at 2,149.2 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 24.98 points, or 0.48 per cent, at 5,266.33.

The S&P 500 index showed three new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 33 new highs and eight new lows.