Stock Futures Stall Amid Mixed Data

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U.S. stock-index futures indicated Wall Street could halt a two-day rally as traders responded to a batch of mixed economic data.

Today's Markets

As of 8:35 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 6 points to 14054, S&P 500 futures rose 0.25 point to 1516 and Nasdaq 100 futures gained 2.8 points to 2743.

The markets have posted their best two-day run since January amid hopes the Federal Reserve will keep its aggressive easing alive and that the political situation in Italy won't tip Europe back into crisis mode. The Dow has tacked on 2.1% in so many days, and sits within 100 points of its record close.

"While Italian politics has raised the risk of disruptive market outcomes that could derail the weak recovery, markets seem eager to downplay these risks," analysts at Barclays wrote to clients Wednesday morning. "Beyond Italian political risks, signs of stabilization continue to emerge."

The British bank notes that the U.S. economic picture continues to improve, especially with regard to the housing market.

Economic reports released on the day were mixed. The Commerce Department's second reading on fourth-quarter gross domestic product showed the economy expanded at an annualized pace of 0.1% in the fourth quarter, better than an initial estimate of a 0.1% contraction, but trailing estimates of 0.5% growth. The pace the economy hit in the final three months of the year is the lowest since the first quarter of 2011.

Meanwhile, the number of individuals who applied for first-time jobless benefits last week dropped by 22,000 to 344,000, coming in better than estimates of 360,000. The number of jobless claims has been falling in recent weeks, in choppy moves, as the labor market has been improving. The all-important monthly jobs report from February is on tap for next week.

Then, later in the day, traders will get a look at how the manufacturing sector in the U.S. Midwest is faring. The Chicago PMI gauge from the Institute for Supply Management-Chicago is expected to have fallen to 54.3 in February from 55.6 the month before.

In commodities, oil prices were steady. The benchmark U.S. crude contract rose a penny, or 0.00%, to $92.77 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline dipped 0.22% to $2.85 a gallon. Gold slumped $4.20, or 0.26%, to $1,591 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 rose 0.13% to 2615, the English FTSE 100 gained 0.35% to 6348 and the German DAX climbed 0.57% to 7719.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 surged 2.7% to 11559 and the Chinese Hang Seng soared 2% to 23020.