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US STOCKS-Futures struggle for direction ahead of Fed minutes

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* Futures: Dow, S&P and Nasdaq about flat

April 7 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were little changed on Wednesday as investors stayed on the sidelines ahead of minutes from the Federal Reserve’s last meeting that could offer clues on the central bank’s views on inflation and an economic recovery.

Massive fiscal stimulus and swift vaccinations prompted several Fed officials at the meeting last month to project interest rate increases as early as next year, opening up a gap with those who do not see rates rising until 2024 at the earliest.

“The minutes could help explain how the Fed plans to communicate future policy decisions and shed light on how some policymakers could change their view on monetary policy if inflation and growth does accelerate as expected this summer,” said Neil Wilson, chief market analyst for Markets.com in London.

The minutes will be released at 2:00 p.m. ET (1800 GMT).

A strong payrolls report for March, which helped the S&P 500 hit its fourth consecutive record high on Tuesday, is only a small step towards the central bank’s threshold for considering tapering its massive support for the economy.

At 6:43 a.m. ET, Dow E-minis were up 20 points, or 0.06%, S&P 500 E-minis were up 2.25 points, or 0.06% and Nasdaq 100 E-minis were up 6 points, or 0.04%.

Shares of cruise operators Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Corp and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd gained between 1.9% and 3% in premarket trading. (Reporting by Shivani Kumaresan in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)

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