Futures flat as investors prepare for rate hike

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[March 13, 2017]  By Yashaswini Swamynathan

(Reuters) -
U.S. stock index futures were little changed on Monday as investors braced for an action-packed week headlined by an all-but-certain interest rate hike by the Federal Reserve.

The Federal Open Market Committee, the Fed's policy-setting board, is expected to lift interest rates by a quarter point to 0.75 percent-1.00 percent.

A blowout monthly jobs number on Friday underscored the strength of the U.S. labor market and that the economy could absorb a rate hike.

Traders have placed a 94 percent bet that Fed Chair Janet Yellen will announce an increase after a two-day meeting on Wednesday. Investors will be watching out for clues if the Fed could become more aggressive as the economy shows signs of improvement.

The dollar, which tends to strengthen as rate climb, was up for the first time in three days, but prices of safe-haven gold also rose due to uncertainty ahead of elections in Europe.

Wall Street ended higher on Friday but the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq snapped a six-week winning streak as worries about valuations and the lack of detail on President Donald Trump's policy proposals threw a wrinkle in a post-election rally.

Oil prices could keep the market under pressure on Monday, as U.S. crude hit a more than three-month low of $48.31 on rising inventories. [O/R]

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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 10, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Shares of Mobileye soared 34.33 percent to $63.50 in heavy premarket trading after chipmaker Intel said it would buy the driving assistant software maker for about $15.3 billion in equity value. Intel's shares were marginally lower, while shares other U.S. chipmakers rose slightly.

Dow component Boeing was down 1.5 percent at $176 following a Morgan Stanley downgrade of the planemaker's stock to "equal-weight" from "overweight". * IT research and advisory firm Gartner  rose 5.8 percent to $112.17 after RBC said the stock was its "top pick" among those it rated "outperform".

Futures snapshot at 7:01 a.m. ET:

Dow e-minis were down 9 points, or 0.04 percent, with 3,868 contracts changing hands.

S&P 500 e-minis were down 2.25 points, or 0.09 percent, with 81,663 contracts traded.

Nasdaq 100 e-minis  were down 2 points, or 0.04 percent, on volume of 4,552 contracts.

(Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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