NEW YORK – Stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Wednesday after a series of weak sessions as strong earnings from technology bellwether Cisco and two retail chains boosted sentiment.
The S&P 500 has fallen 3.8 percent over the past five trading days, with most of the losses driven by uncertainty over the looming U.S. "fiscal cliff" and concerns about Europe's economic troubles.
The index closed below its 200-day moving average for a fourth day in a row on Tuesday, a technical indicator that suggests recent declines could gain momentum.
Trading has been volatile, with positive momentum difficult to sustain.
"It seems as if every minor rally we get, gets sold into, a trend that has been both consistent and concerning," said Christian Wagner, chief executive officer at Longview Capital Management in Wilmington, Delaware. "This could be the new normal until the fiscal cliff gets resolved, and that will make for a difficult environment."
Futures showed a muted reaction to a dip in retail sales for October. Analysts had expected sales to fall due to the storm that hit the U.S. Northeast. [ID:nL1E8MDA27] Producer prices fell 0.2 percent in October, compared with an expectations for a 0.2 percent rise.
Dow component Cisco Systems Inc reported first-quarter earnings and revenue late Tuesday that beat expectations, sending the stock soaring 7.3 percent to $18.08 in premarket trading Wednesday.
Cisco, viewed as a harbinger for spending on information technology because of its global reach and customers across all sectors, could lend support to the tech sector.
Technology shares have dropped almost 10 percent over the past two months, dragged down by earnings disappointments from Google and others. Tech was the worst performing sector on Tuesday.
"For Cisco to beat expectations in an environment like this is great and speaks to the solid management at the company," Wagner said. "Hopefully this will do something for the tech sector, which has been so hurt by Apple lately."
Apple , the most valuable U.S. company, has tumbled in recent months by 20 percent from its peak.
S&P 500 futures rose 5.3 points and were above 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 added 35 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 11.25 points.
In earnings news, Abercrombie & Fitch Co soared 30 percent to $40.82 before the bell after posting a steep rise in its quarterly profit. Staples Inc rose 4.4 percent to $11.75 after posting earnings that beat expectations.
Macroeconomic issues will likely play a major role in how stocks trade as investors grapple with the impact of Europe's debt crisis and the fiscal cliff, a series of large, mandated tax hikes and spending cuts that start to take effect next year.
Analysts say serious fiscal negotiations are still weeks away, but that the failure to reach a deal in Congress could tip the world's largest economy into recession.
European shares <.FTEU3> fell 0.4 percent as Greece's unresolved crisis raised questions about the region's potential for economic growth, while anti-austerity strikes across southern Europe added to concerns that fiscal reforms would be politically difficult to implement.
(Editing by Kenneth Barry)