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Stock-index futures extended gains on Wednesday after a report on private-sector payrolls topped economists' estimates and traders looked ahead to the Federal Reserve's policy statement.
The Dow has shed nearly 600 points in the past two sessions on the heels of a five-week winning streak, the longest for the blue-chip average since January. Market participants have been fixated on the two-year-old sovereign debt crisis.
Less than a week after European leaders struck a wide-ranging agreement to tackle the crisis that analysts fear could put the region's economy in peril, a call by Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou to hold a referendum threatened to derail the entire arrangement, and potentially put the currency bloc in jeopardy. Greece needs billions of euros in rescue aid to stave off a collapse, but international lenders have pushed for highly-unpopular austerity measures, which would be voted on by the entire Greek public in the referendum.
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It remained unclear Wednesday whether the referendum would come to fruition. The country's cabinet unanimously backed the call, but many lawmakers rejected it, and several members of Papandreou's own party threatened to defect. The fear is that if Greece defaults, the cost for other highly indebted but bigger economies, like Italy, to borrow will jump, substantially worsening the crisis.
The euro rose 0.58% against the U.S. dollar, while European blue chips ticked higher by 0.1%.
Market participants will also have a slew of economic releases to parse through on the day.
The labor market is coming into focus ahead of the highly-anticipated monthly unemployment report on Friday. The jobs market has been struggling ever since the recession, with the unemployment rate presently stuck above 9%.
Private-sector payrolls increased by 110,000 last month, zipping by economists' estimates of a gain of 101,000 jobs. Planned job cuts fell 63% last month to 42,759 -- the lowest since June -- according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.
The Federal Reserve concludes its two-day meeting on Wednesday, and is expected to release its updated economic forecast. Analysts don't expect the central bank to take any additional steps to boost the stalled economy after it unveiled plans to lengthen the maturity of its balance sheet at the last meeting. Short-term interest rates also remain at historic lows between 0% and 0.25%, meaning the Fed would have to deploy more unconventional measures if it planned on easing further.
However, economists will be looking to see how the central bank will update its forecast. The last one, released in June, didn't account for the late-summer market turmoil and U.S. debt debacle.
Energy markets got a boost from a weaker U.S. dollar. The benchmark U.S. crude oil contract rose 59 cents, or 0.65%, to $92.77 a barrel. Wholesale RBOB gasoline rose 2 cents, or 0.65%, from $2.64 a gallon.
Gold climbed $19.10, or 1.1%, to $92.77 a troy ounce. Yields on U.S. government debt moved higher after plunging during the selloff in the prior session. The 10-year Treasury yields 2.043% from 1.992%.
European blue chips fell 0.04%, the English FTSE 100 fell 0.56% to 5,391 and the German DAX rose 0.4% to 5,858.
In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 tumbled 2.2% to 8,640 and the Chinese Hang Seng jumped 1.9% to 19,734.