September 19, 2017 / 11:34 AM / a year ago

US STOCKS-Futures slightly higher ahead of Federal Reserve meeting

* Futures: Dow up 14 pts, S&P up 8 pts, Nasdaq off 4.25 pts

By Sruthi Shankar

Sept 19 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were slightly higher on Tuesday, ahead of the Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting, which would give investors clues on the timing of the next U.S. interest rate hike.

* While investors do not expect any rate hike as an outcome of the meeting, the central bank will likely announce that it will begin paring its massive portfolio of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities, with the reductions expected to start this year.

* Investors will also listen closely to Fed Chair Janet Yellen's views on inflation, which has been posing a persistent concern for policymakers as it remains stuck below the Fed's 2-percent target rate.

* U.S. stocks have been breaching record levels, with the Dow clocking a closing record for the fifth day in a row on Monday and the S&P closing at a record for the second consecutive session.

* The S&P ended slightly higher on Monday as financial stocks rose, but the Nasdaq pared gains sharply as technology stocks lost ground late in the session.

* Investors will also watch U.S. President Donald Trump's speech at the United Nations General Assembly where he is expected to urge U.N. member states to increase pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear weapon ambitions. The speech is scheduled at 10:30 a.m. ET (1430 GMT).

* U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis hinted on Monday about the existence of military options on North Korea that might spare Seoul from a brutal counterattack. But he declined to say what kind of options he was talking about or whether they involved the use of lethal force.

* Economic data in the day includes a Commerce Department report on monthly housing starts, due at 8:30 a.m. ET. The report is likely to show homebuilding little changed at a 1.175 million-unit rate in August.

* Among stocks, Tesla was down 1.35 percent in premarket trading after Jefferies started coverage of the electric car maker's stock with "underperform".

* Nike fell more than 1 percent after a slew of price target cuts by brokerages.

* Michael Kors rose about 2.56 percent after Oppenheimer upgraded the stock to "outperform" from "perform".

Futures snapshot at 7:05 a.m. ET:

* S&P 500 e-minis were up 8 points, or 0.32 percent, with 48 contracts changing hands.

* Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 4.25 points, or 0.07 percent, in volume of 22 contracts.

* Dow e-minis were up 14 points, or 0.06 percent, with 11 contracts changing hands. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)

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