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U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben BernankeJASON REED

Global stock market indexes looked set to move modestly higher on Tuesday morning ahead of the U.S. Federal Reserve's decision on interest rates in the afternoon.

U.S. stock index futures were higher with about 90 minutes before markets open, suggesting that stocks will rise at the start of trading. Futures for the Dow Jones industrial average were up 17 points or 0.2 per cent. Futures for the broader S&P 500 were up 2 points or 0.2 per cent.

In Europe, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 was up 0.4 per cent and Germany's DAX index was up 0.7 per cent in afternoon trading. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 0.3 per cent.

North American stocks ended Monday relatively flat, following concerns about the top-notch credit ratings of the US, Germany, France and the U.K. Investors were also concerned about news emanating from China, where the premier warned about the growing risks of a double-dip recession.

On Tuesday, though, investors will remain focused on the Fed, which will release its decision on interest rates at 2:15 pm (ET). No one is expecting the Fed to raise its key interest rate, which currently sits at about 0 per cent. However, the Fed's statement will be read carefully to detect any shift in tone, perhaps giving clues as to when the central bank is likely to begin raising rates.

Investors will also be looking at U.S. housing starts and building permits, which will be released at 8:30 am.

Meanwhile, the commodity-heavy S&P/TSX composite index is likely to get a boost from rising oil prices. Crude oil rose above $80 (US) a barrel, after falling below that threshold in Monday trading.