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Blue-chip futures fell as traders mulled mixed economic data from Europe, continued worries about Greece and awaited monetary policy guidance from the Federal Reserve later in the day.
As of 8:10 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 48 points to 12578, S&P 500 futures slumped 4.5 points to 1307 and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 14 points to 2451.
Despite the weakness in Dow and S&P 500 futures, Nasdaq 100 futures held steadily in positive territory. The tech-heavy index got a lift from shares of Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) that soared more than 7% after the iPad-maker posted record quarterly results that shattered expectations on the top and bottom lines.
Still, market participants had a slew of other developments to consider. Great Britain's economy contracted by 0.2% in the final quarter of 2012, a slightly bigger fall than the 0.1% economists forecast. On a more upbeat note, however, business confidence in Germany, Europe's biggest economy, rose for the third-straight month, accelerating at a quicker pace than economists' expected.
Negotiations between Greece and its private creditors, meanwhile, remained deadlocked on Wednesday. The country has a debt payment to make in late March, and if the embattled country is unable to conclude talks and receive its much-needed rescue funds from the European Union and International Monetary Fund, it risks a messy default.
The euro fell 0.67% to $1.2949, while the U.S. dollar rose 0.61% against a basket of six world currencies.
Traders were also keeping a close watch on the Federal Reserve, which is expected to make its first monetary policy announcement of 2012 at around noon ET. The central bank is expected to hold interest rates at low levels in a bid to keep the economy moving. The Fed is also set to release its interest rate and economic forecasts for the first time at roughly 2:00 p.m. in a historic move, as Chairman Ben Bernanke looks to make the institution more transparent. Bernanke is set to speak shortly thereafter.
On the earnings front, Boeing (NYSE:BA) posted fourth-quarter results that jetted past analysts' expectations. However, shares of the aerospace giant fell following the report because the company's full-year 2012 outlook fell well short of estimates.
United Technologies (NYSE:UTX), another Dow component, posted mixed results, beating Wall Street's view on the bottom line, but missing on the top line.
Commodities markets were broadly lower. The benchmark crude oil contract traded in New York fell 87 cents, or 0.88%, to $98.08 a barrel. Wholesale RBOB gasoline dipped 0.19% to $2.80 a gallon.
In metals, gold fell $10.50, or 0.63%, to $1,654.
European blue chips slid 1.1%, the English FTSE 100 fell 0.69% to 5,712 and the German DAX slipped 0.64% to 6,378.
In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 rallied 1.1%.