* Futures off: Dow 92 pts, S&P 9 pts, Nasdaq 16 pts
By Rodrigo Campos
NEW YORK, March 18 (Reuters) – Dow Futures fell on Wednesday ahead of a highly anticipated statement and news conference by the Federal Reserve later in the session, with the Fed expected to give clearer clues on how soon it plans to tighten monetary policy.
* The U.S. central bank is expected to provide indications on the timing of its first interest rate hike in nearly a decade, as it assesses whether the U.S. economic recovery can hold up against collapsing oil prices and a soaring dollar.
* A Fed statement is due at 2:00 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT), with a press conference by Chair Janet Yellen half an hour later.
* The U.S. dollar has strengthened against most major currencies as central banks around the world ease monetary policy while the Fed is on track to tighten.
* U.S. crude fell for a seventh straight session, hitting a fresh six-year low at $ 42.05 per barrel. Energy shares could continue to be pressured by the price action in crude.
* A lock-up period in Alibaba shares expires Wednesday, freeing some 437 million Alibaba shares for possible sale. A larger lock-up of more than a billion shares expires in September. The stock hit a high of $ 120 back in November and closed Tuesday at $ 84.50, about 24 percent above the $ 68 IPO price.
* Oracle rose 2.2 percent in light premarket volume a day after it posted flat third-quarter revenue and slightly lower profit. However, it raised its quarterly dividend 25 percent to 15 cents a share.
Futures snapshot at 7:34 a.m. EDT (11:34 GMT):
* S&P 500 e-minis were down 9 points, or 0.44 percent, with 133,889 contracts changing hands.
* Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 16 points, or 0.37 percent, in volume of 17,947 contracts.
* Dow e-minis were down 92 points, or 0.52 percent, with 14,176 contracts changing hands.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum)
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