U.S. stock futures pointed to a steady open for Wall Street on Friday, with investors seeking direction from a heavy lineup of Federal Reserve speakers, including Chairman Ben Bernanke, and the release of December auto sales.
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A major storm for the Northeast could weigh on volumes for Wall Street if traders find it difficult to get in, after states of emergency were declared for both New York and New Jersey.
Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average edged up 13 points to 16401, while those for the S&P 500 index rose 1.3 points to 1827.980. Futures for the Nasdaq-100 index rose 0.75 point to 3560.
Bernanke and other Fed members will mostly be speaking out of Philadelphia on Friday at an American Economic Association gathering. At 12:45 p.m. EST, Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser is scheduled to talk on transitioning from a low-interest-rate environment, and at 1:15 p.m. EST, Fed Gov. Jeremy Stein will discuss banks as patient fixed-income investors.
At 2:30 p.m. EST, Bernanke will speak on the Fed's past, present and future, and will also answer audience questions.
More Fed speakers will be heard Saturday and Sunday.
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Also Friday, Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker is due to deliver a speech on the economic outlook at 1 p.m. EST in Baltimore.
Also for investors, December auto sales will be on tap. Researcher Edmunds.com forecasts General Motors Co. will see a 0.8% rise in December sales to 247,686 vehicles. Ford Motor Co. is estimated to report a gain in sales that month of 5.9%, to 225,543 vehicles.
Shares of Facebook Inc. could be in focus after news of a class-action lawsuit that alleges the social-networking company is monitoring users' private messages, gathering data and selling the information on to advertisers. Facebook reportedly said the allegations are "without merit, and we will defend ourselves vigorously."
Shares of FireEye Inc. could build on late-session gains from Thursday after the computer-security firm announced it had acquired another cybersecurity firm, Mandiant Corp., in a deal valued at $1 billion.
In overseas markets, shares on Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 2.2% after data pointed to slowing expansion in China's services sector, which came on the heels of two separate reports that showed a pullback in the country's manufacturing sector.
Writing for Project Syndicate on Thursday, billionaire investor George Soros said the biggest uncertainty facing the world today is China.
"The growth model responsible for its rapid rise has run out of steam," he wrote.
European stocks shook off earlier losses to turn slightly higher. But declines for Wall Street on Thursday also kept gains in check. Shares closed sharply lower on the first day of trading of 2014, driven by China data and as investors cashed in on gains from the market's big rally in 2013. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 135.31 points, or 0.8%, to 16441.35, marking its biggest one-day point loss since Nov. 7.
Gold prices edged higher and oil eased off, while the dollar fell against major currencies.