Futures Flat; Fed Remains in Focus


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U.S. stock-index futures budged little Tuesday as traders continued questioning when the Federal Reserve will begin tapering its vast bond-buying program.

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Today's Markets

As of 8:00 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures climbed 3 points to 15322, S&P 500 futures fell 1 point to 1664 and Nasdaq 100 futures slumped 1.5 points to 3020.

The Fed's unprecedented asset-purchase program, dubbed QE3, is widely considered to be one of the drivers of the big rally on Wall Street this year. However, talk has shifted in recent weeks to when exactly the central bank will begin paring back the rate at which it buys bonds -- currently set at $85 billion a month.

"Markets remain jittery about the potential for the tapering of asset purchases ahead of Chairman Bernanke’s testimony to Congress on Wednesday," analysts at Barclays wrote to clients.

Yusuf Heusen, a sales trader at IG, echoed those comments, saying "a couple of Fed speeches today will have investors eagerly parsing the comments for any hints as to potential changes in monetary policy."

There are several big corporate events on tap for the day. Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) chief executive Tim Cook will testify before Congress regarding the company's holdings of billions of dollars in cash overseas in what some lawmakers see as a tax dodge. J.P. Morgan Chase (NYSE:JPM) shareholders will vote on whether Jamie Dimon can hold the roles of chairman and chief executive. Dimon is one of the most powerful people in banking, and such a move would represent a major shift in the sector.

Home Depot's (NYSE:HD) quarterly profits and revenues beat expectations, and the home improvement store chain also raised its full-year outlook amid a recovering housing market. Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) revealed a beat on the bottom line, but a miss on the top.

In commodities, oil prices fell 47 cents, or 0.49%, to $96.20 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline sold off by 0.94% to $2.878. Gold dipped $8.50, or 0.6%, to $1,376 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 fell 0.61% to 2807, the English FTSE 100 rose 0.14% to 6765 and the German DAX dipped 0.27% to 8433.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 tilted higher by 0.13% to 15281 and the Chinese Hang Seng slumped 0.54% to 23366.

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