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* Private payrolls rise less than expected in Feb - ADP

* Fed's Powell still expects rate cuts later this year

* Futures up: Dow 0.41%, S&P 0.54%, Nasdaq 0.80%

March 6 (Reuters) -

Wall Street was set to open higher on Wednesday after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell in prepared remarks ahead of his congressional testimony said the central bank expects to reduce its benchmark interest rate later this year.


said on Wednesday

that inflation had "eased substantially" since hitting 40-year highs in 2022, but that policymakers still needed "greater confidence" in its continued decline before cutting rates.

"If the economy evolves broadly as expected, it will likely be appropriate to begin dialing back policy restraint at some point this year," Powell said in remarks prepared for delivery to the House Financial Services Committee later in the day.

"The comments are in line with what we expect from the Chair at this point," said Phil Blancato, chief executive officer at Ladenburg Thalmann Asset Management.

"He's been very measured in what he said about the overall health of the US economy. And, from an inflationary standpoint, we're not there yet."

Wall Street indexes closed more than 1% lower on Tuesday amid weakness in market leaders Tesla and Apple and as investor focus shifted to the Fed after signs of sticky inflation in February dampened hopes of early interest rate cuts.

Traders see a 72.7% chance of the first rate cut this year in June, as per CME Group's FedWatch tool. At the start of 2024, they were betting on March as the starting point for the Fed's easing cycle.

Meanwhile, U.S.

private payrolls

increased slightly less than expected in February, data showed on Wednesday.

Investors will also be tracking job openings data, due later in day, ahead of the closely watched nonfarm payrolls report on Friday.

At 08:44 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 160 points, or 0.41%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 27.25 points, or 0.54%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 143.5 points, or 0.8%.

Most megacap growth and technology stocks rose in premarket trading, with AI darling Nvidia climbing 1.6%.

U.S.-listed shares of China's JD.com advanced 14.2% after the e-commerce group reported fourth-quarter revenue above estimates and upsized its share repurchase program.

Shares of cryptocurrency-linked companies such as Coinbase Global and MicroStrategy gained 4.0% and 5.5%, respectively, as bitcoin rebounded.

CrowdStrike Holdings soared 22.3% after the company forecast annual results above Wall Street estimates, lifted by strong enterprise spending on cybersecurity to counter rising online threats.

Other cybersecurity stocks Palo Alto Networks, Fortinet and Zscaler rose between 2.6% and 3.3%. (Reporting by Bansari Mayur Kamdar and Amruta Khandekar in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Ankika Biswas; Editing by Maju Samuel)