Futures Flat as Traders Brace for Busy Day

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U.S. stock-index futures failed to budge much Wednesday as traders locked in for a day filled with corporate earnings and a likely debt vote on Capitol Hill.

Today's Markets

As of 8:12 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 2 points to 13694, S&P 500 futures dipped 1.8 points to 1488 and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 2.3 points to 2753.

The markets continue on their quiet march higher, with the Dow and S&P 500 notching fresh five-year highs on Tuesday. Compared to recent standards, the move up has been fairly tame, with volatility, as tracked by the VIX, falling to its lowest levels since early 2007.

Still, there were no lack of headlines to focus on.

The U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote around mid-day on a measure that would suspend the debt ceiling until May 19. The bill, which is expected to be passed with wide Republican support, would temporarily turn off the borrowing limit as opposed to setting an explicit spending cap. The White House has already agreed to sign off on it, and if it passed it the Senate, it would, at least for the moment, ease Wall Street's fears about a default on U.S. debt or a government shutdown.

The bill also tries to force Congress to pass a budget, something that has been elusive for four years, by April 15, lest members of Congress won't be paid. Whether such a move can gain enough traction in the Democrat-controlled Senate is yet to be seen.

It is also a big day for earnings. Dow components McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) and United Technologies (NYSE:UTX) weighed in ahead of the opening bell. The world's biggest burger chain unveiled a beat on profits and revenues. However, United Tech posted mixed results, beating on the bottom line, but missing slightly on the top.

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), the biggest publicly-traded American company by market value, posts after the closing bell. Since the Cupertino, Calif.-based iPhone maker is such a large company, big moves in its stock price often move the broader markets (especially the tech-heavy Nasdaq). Its stock has tumbled some 20% in the past three months amid concerns about iPhone 5 sales and cannibalization caused by its iPad Mini.  It is forecast to have earned $12.8 billion, or $13.47 a share, on $54.7 billion in revenues in its fiscal first quarter.

In commodities, oil futures edged up by 7 cents, or 0.07%, to $96.75 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline advanced 0.55% to $2.846 a gallon. Gold ticked higher by 10 cents, or 0.01% to $1,693 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 dipped 0.2% to 2711, the English FTSE 100 rose 0.16% to 6189 and the German DAX climbed 0.2% to 7712.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 tumbled 2.1% to 10487 and the Chinese Hang Seng edged lower by 0.1% to 23635.