Futures Waver; Fed, China in Focus


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U.S. stock-index futures drifted in a tight range on Wednesday as traders grew more concerned about China and awaited minutes from the Federal Reserve.

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Today's Markets

As of 8:03 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures rose 4 points to 15226, S&P 500 futures slumped 0.75 point to 1645 and Nasdaq 100 futures dipped 0.25 point to 2974.

Wall Street added a fourth day to its winning streak on Tuesday, pushing the tech-heavy Nasdaq to its highest closing level in close to 13 years. The mood was more subdued Wednesday after a round of unexpectedly weak trade data from China.

The world's No. 2 economy reported its exports fell 3.1% in June on a year-to-year basis, compared with expectations they would jump nearly 4%. Imports dipped a milder 0.7%, widely missing expectations of a gain of 6%.

"The data pose further downside risks to the growth outlook ahead of next week’s [second quarter] GDP data release and reinforce their concerns about a slowdown in [second half]," Zhiwei Zhang, an economist covering China for Japan-based Nomura wrote in a note to clients.

Traders were also bracing for minutes from the Federal Reserve meeting in June. It was after that meeting that Chairman Ben Bernanke unveiled a more optimistic economic outlook that led many Wall Street economists to expect the central bank will begin paring back its bond purchases at its December meeting.

Bernanke is also scheduled to speak on the history of the world's mightiest central bank slightly after the market closes. It is unclear whether he will discuss current monetary policy in his speech.

The Commerce Department provides its latest snapshot of wholesale inventories at 10:00 a.m. ET. The measure is expected to have climbed by 0.4% in May from April. While the gauge is a lagging indicator, it figures into second-quarter gross domestic product readings.

Oil prices continued climbing, rising above the $105 a barrel mark. The benchmark U.S. contract recently rose $1.63, or 1.6%, to $105.15 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline climbed 1.3% to $2.964 a gallon. In metals, gold advanced $11.50, or 0.92%, to $1,257 a troy ounce.

In corporate news, Tribune Company said it plans on splitting its publishing and broadcasting operations into two separate companies. Yum Brands (NYSE:YUM), the parent of KFC and Taco Bell, is slated to release its quarterly earnings after the closing bell.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 dipped 0.69% to 2646, the English FTSE 100 fell 0.49% to 6481 and the German DAX dropped 0.46% to 8021.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 slumped 0.39% to 14417 and the Chinese Hang Seng rallied 1.1% to 20905.

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