March 21, 2018 / 4:05 PM / a year ago

US STOCKS-Energy stocks, Facebook help Wall St higher ahead of Fed decision

* Facebook shares gain after two days of steep losses

* Energy stocks jump as oil prices rise more than 2 pct

* Fed to make rate announcement at 2 p.m. ET

* General Mills drags on food stocks after forecast cut

* Indexes up: Dow up 0.38 pct, S&P 0.34 pct, Nasdaq 0.32 pct (Changes comment, adds details, updates prices)

By Sruthi Shankar

March 21 (Reuters) - Wall Street gained late on Wednesday morning, ahead of an imminent U.S. interest rate hike, as Facebook Inc's shares reversed course to trade higher and energy stocks got a boost from surging oil prices.

Facebook shares gained 1.5 percent and provided some relief to the technology sector after two bruising days during which the social media company lost some $50 billion in market value over reports of data misuse that raised broader questions about consumer privacy and the need for tougher regulation.

The technology index rose 0.36 percent.

The energy index gained 2.5 percent, mirroring a jump in crude oil prices that hit a six-week high after a surprise decline in U.S. inventories and as concern persisted over possible disruption to Middle East supply.

The Federal Reserve is expected to raise U.S. rates for the first time this year after a two-day policy meeting, but investors are on edge over the kind of monetary policy regime new Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell will pursue.

While markets are sure about the quarter-point hike, they are less confident of what the Fed signals next: three hikes this year, as previously forecast by policy makers, or four.

"It's really more about rates and cost of capital increasing, and environment where risk assets are priced aggressively to very strong revenue and earnings growth," said Peter Cecchini, chief market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald in New York.

"Frankly that's all leveraged to global growth and GDP, which are also probably a little too high."

At 11:52 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.38 percent at 24,820.6. The S&P 500 gained 0.34 percent to 2,726.24 and the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.32 percent to 7,388.10.

General Mills slumped about 10 percent after the company cut its full-year profit forecast due to higher freight and commodity costs.

That weighed on other food companies, with Kellogg and JM Smucker and ConAgra falling about 4 percent.

Southwest Airlines fell 6.2 percent after the carrier cut its forecast for a key revenue metric. Other airlines also fell, with the Dow Jones Airlines index was down 3.4 percent.

Investors are also nervous by signs of a brewing global trade war after the Wall Street Journal reported that China was planning counter-measures against U.S. trade tariffs.

"So far, we have seen low-level (trade) skirmishes, which are not material enough to affect the world economy. But if we see retaliation, and significant trade disruptions, it's a different order or magnitude, could begin to affect global growth forecasts," said Andrew Milligan, head of global strategy at Aberdeen Standard Investments.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE for a 1.86-to-1 ratio and for a 2.01-to-1 ratio, on the Nasdaq. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru, Additional reporting by David Randall in New York; Editing by Dan Burns and Savio D'Souza)

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