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US STOCKS-Wall Street set for subdued open with Fed minutes in focus

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Devik Jain and Shreyashi Sanyal
·2 min read
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(For a Reuters live blog on U.S., UK and European stockmarkets, click LIVE/ or type LIVE/ in a news window.)

* U.S. retail sales rebound strongly in January

* Verizon, Chevron jump as Buffett's Berkshire reveals bigstakes

* Hilton falls on third straight quarterly loss

* Futures: Dow flat, S&P off 0.06%, Nasdaq down 0.35%(Adds comments, bullets, background; Updates prices throughout)

By Devik Jain and Shreyashi Sanyal

Feb 17 (Reuters) - Wall Street's main indexes were set for asubdued open on Wednesday as investors stayed away from makingbig bets ahead of the release of minutes from the U.S FederalReserve's January meeting.

The Fed has pledged to pin interest rates near zero untilinflation rises to 2% and looks set to exceed that goal, anduntil the economy also reaches full employment.

That super-easy stance, coupled with the Bidenadministration's proposed $1.9 trillion spending bill forpandemic relief, has some analysts warning of a coming surge ininflation.

"While the new package may be large, it will add stimulus toan economy still below potential, and the spending will bespread out over a couple of years," said Mark Haefele, chiefinvestment officer, UBS Global Wealth Management in Zurich,Switzerland.

"So while a near-term rise in inflation is likely, we expectthe Fed to look past that and keep rates on hold."

Data showed U.S. retail sales rebounded sharply in Januaryafter households received additional pandemic relief money fromthe government, suggesting a pick-up in economic activity afterbeing restrained by a fresh wave of COVID-19 infections latelast year.

The Dow notched a record closing high on Tuesday ledby gains in cyclical sectors, although concerns over risinginterest rates kept the benchmark S&P 500 little changed.

"The reflation trade that has been good for stock markets asit's driven by optimism around the recovery. But that will onlycontinue to a point and if yields start rising at a rateconsidered too fast, sentiment will quickly change in stockmarkets," said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA.

Rising inflation expectations also pushed benchmark 10-yearU.S. Treasury yields to their highest level in ayear on Tuesday.

At 8:42 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 6 points, or0.02%, S&P 500 e-minis were down 2.5 points, or 0.06%,and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 48 points, or 0.35%.

Shares in Dow components Verizon Communications Incand Chevron Corp jumped about 4% each in premarkettrading after Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Incdisclosed major investments in the companies on Tuesday.

Hotel operator Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc slipped1.4% on reporting a third straight quarterly loss as bookingsfell due to coronavirus-induced travel disruptions.(Reporting by Devik Jain and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru;Editing by Anil D'Silva)