US STOCKS-Wall Street set for modest gain at open; Fed to meet

Reuters

* Comcast mulls scenarios for possible Time Warner deal

* U.S. consumer prices flat in November

* KKR to pay for its KFN unit with stock

* Futures: Dow up 30 pts, S&P up 2 pts, Nasdaq up 3 pts

By Rodrigo Campos

NEW YORK, Dec 17 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks were set to open slightly higher on Tuesday as the Federal Reserve prepared to begin its last policy-setting meeting of the year.

Although many in the market expect the Fed to begin to wind down its market-friendly $85 billion a month in asset purchases in March, some are betting on an earlier tapering of stimulus after a recent string of better-than-expected economic data.

U.S. consumer prices were flat in November, but a bounce back in the annual inflation rate from a four-year low will probably give the Federal Reserve cover to start dialing back it massive monetary stimulus. Separate data showed the U.S. current account deficit was the smallest in four years in the third quarter as exports increased and more income was earned abroad.

The Fed has said its current policy is data-dependant, and some market participants believe the U.S. central bank will upgrade its estimates for economic activity after a two-day meeting that is set to begin later on Tuesday.

"The Fed meeting begins today so I don't expect the market to do much after yesterday's strong performance," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.

"The news remains consistent with an economy that continues to gain traction and the market has discounted a Fed move."

S&P 500 futures rose 2 points and were slightly above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 30 points and Nasdaq 100 futures added 3 points.

KKR & Co said it would acquire its specialty finance company KKR Financial Holdings in a $2.6 billion deal, paid for with KKR shares trading at an all-time high. KFN shares rose 29.5 percent in premarket trading while KKR slipped 2.4 percent.

Facebook shares rose 2 percent in premarket trading after the Wall Street Journal reported the social network will begin selling video ads later this week.

Shares of 3M rose 2.6 percent in premarket trading after the industrial conglomerate affirmed its outlook and raised its dividend.

AT&T said it would sell its wireline operations in Connecticut to Frontier Communications for $2 billion in cash, partly to fund the expansion of its 4G network. Frontier shares jumped 12.3 percent in premarket trading.

Comcast Corp is examining three scenarios for a potential deal with Time Warner Cable Inc, including a full takeover bid for the second-largest cable operator, people close to the situation said on Monday.

Boeing's board raised the company dividend about 50 percent on Monday and approved $10 billion in new share buyback authority that the company said it would use in the next two to three years.

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