What to Watch in the Day Ahead - Tuesday, March 17

Mon Mar 16, 2015 2:34pm EDT
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(The Day Ahead is an email and PDF publication that includes the day's major stories and events, analyses and other features. To receive The Day Ahead, Eikon users can register at . Thomson One users can register at RT/DAY/US. All times in ET/GMT) The Federal Open Market Committee begins a two-day meeting on interest rate policy. The U.S. Federal Reserve's statement after the meeting is expected to change its language to remove the word "patient", suggesting a rate hike later in the spring or in summer.

Oracle Corp, the database software company, is expected to report a 2 percent rise in third-quarter profit. The company continues to make the difficult transition to selling its software over the cloud rather than installing it on customers' machines. Oracle may also give valuable insight into the state of enterprise technology spending.

Photoshop maker Adobe Systems Inc is expected to post a quarterly profit above estimates, according to Thomson Reuters StarMine, helped by demand from corporate clients. To attract more predictable recurring revenue from its Creative Suite 6, Adobe has been switching to Web-based subscription, which allows customers to access the latest versions of software for a monthly payment. Adobe is expected to benefit in its digital media business going forward, helped by its acquisition of stock photography company Fotolia.

The Commerce Department is scheduled to release housing starts and building permits for February. Housing starts are expected to fall to a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 1.049 million units, while building permits are expected to rise to a pace of 1.065 million units. (0830/1330)

Fuel cell maker Plug Power Inc is expected to report a smaller fourth-quarter loss, but the focus will be on the company's order book as analysts expect it to have won fewer contracts during the quarter. The company tempered its 2015 sales forecast in January, saying it had decided to issue numbers "people could rely" on after receiving "a lot of criticism for under-delivering". Investors will focus on Plug Power's production of its own ReliOn fuel cell stacks, which could help bring down costs. The company, however, said a few months ago that sales of ReliOn could be lower than it had originally expected. Plug Power bought hydrogen fuel cell stack technology developer ReliOn in April 2014.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew gives annual testimony on the State of the International Financial System before the House Committee on financial services. He is likely to respond to questions on international banking regulations and currency policies.

Canada's manufacturing sales are expected to have dropped by 1.2 percent in January after rising 1.7 percent in the prior month. (0830/1330)

Canadian convenience store and gasoline station operator Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc is expected to report a higher third-quarter profit, helped mainly by higher gas margins due to a sharp drop in global crude prices. Couche-Tard, whose outlets include Mac's and Circle K, also operates in Europe. The company bought smaller U.S. rival Pantry Inc in December to cement its position as one of the top convenience store operators in North America. Investors will mainly focus on Couche-Tard's cost-saving strategies and forecast on North American demand after the deal closes, which is expected to happen during the first half of 2015. Investors will keep an eye on the company's cash balance, an indication of further expansion plans.

The Colombian government is expected to release fourth-quarter Gross Domestic Product data. The Colombian economy likely grew 0.7 percent in the quarter compared with 0.6 percent in the third-quarter, according to economists polled by Reuters. However, it grew at a marginally slower pace of 4 percent versus 4.2 percent a year ago. (1800/2300)

Bank of Japan concludes a two-day monetary policy meeting and will announce its benchmark interest rate decision. Japan's central bank is set to maintain its massive stimulus program and signal its conviction that a steady economic recovery will help achieve its ambitious price target without immediate additional monetary easing. A slump in oil prices has slowed annual core consumer inflation to 0.2 percent in January, well below the bank's 2 percent target, keeping alive expectations that the central bank will top up its already aggressive asset-buying program this year. But policymakers have sent a concerted signal to investors that while they expect inflation to grind to a halt in the coming months, they see no need to respond unless the price weakness hits inflation expectations. Governor Haruhiko Kuroda is expected to reinforce this stance at his post-meeting briefing, while reminding markets that he is ready to act on any sign of change in a broad uptrend in prices. (Compiled By Astha Rawat in Bengaluru; Editing by Simon Jennings)