NEW YORK – Stock index futures fell on Wednesday, putting the S&P 500 on track to snap a two-day advance in the wake of Barack Obama's presidential election victory and comments by European Central Bank President Mario Draghi.
With political uncertainty removed, investor focus will now shift to the looming "fiscal cliff" of some $600 billion in spending cuts and tax increases that are due to kick in next year and could derail the U.S. economic recovery.
Europe will garner attention as Greece's ruling coalition hopes to overcome its own divisions and defy protestors on Wednesday to push through an austerity package needed to secure aid and avert bankruptcy.
ECB President Draghi said the bank expects the euro zone economy to remain weak "in the near term" and euro zone governments must press ahead with efforts to forge closer financial, fiscal, economic and political union.
Energy shares may come under pressure, as companies in the sector will likely see more regulation in Obama's second term, with less access to federal lands and water even as the administration promotes energy independence.
Alpha Natural Resources Inc dropped 4.9 percent to $9.15, Arch Coal Inc lost 5.9 percent to $8.15 and James River Coal Co fell 11.7 percent to $4.15 in premarket trading.
Healthcare stocks may also see some volatility, as President Obama's reelection rules out the possibility of a wholesale repeal of his healthcare reform law, but questions remain as to what parts of the domestic policy will be implemented.
S&P 500 futures fell 8.7 points and were below fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures lost 88 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures declined 16.75 points.
Pfizer Inc's Xeljanz treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, one of the company's potentially most lucrative experimental drugs, was approved by U.S. regulators late Tuesday and is now poised to compete with Abbott Laboratories Inc's top-selling Humira.
Health insurer WellPoint Inc joined rivals UnitedHealth Group and Aetna Inc in reporting a better-than-expected quarterly profit as the company reined in costs.
Other S&P 500 companies scheduled to post earnings include Mondelez International Inc , Monster Beverage Corp , Whole Foods Market Inc and Qualcomm Inc .
European stocks pared early gains and briefly turned flat around midday on Wednesday, as nagging worries over the euro zone crisis eclipsed an initial relief from U.S. President Obama's re-election.
Asian shares rose amid relief that the U.S. election result was clear cut. MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan <.MIAPJ0000PUS> gained 0.9 percent to an eight-month high, after spending much of the session in and out of negative territory.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum)