U.S. Futures Follow Global Markets Lower; FOMC Minutes on Tap

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U.S. stock-index futures fell on Wednesday after data from Japan fanned fears about global growth and traders awaited minutes from the Federal Reserve.

Today's Markets

As of 8:17 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures dipped 25 points to 13174, S&P fell 3.5 points to 1409 and Nasdaq 100 futures dropped 6.3 points to 2768.

Japan's trade deficit came in at roughly $6.5 billion in July, which was higher than economists expected. The shortfall came as exports tumbled 8.1% -- more than twice the decline that was forecast.

BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP), one of the world's biggest miners, also saw its profits drop sharply during the second half of the year from the same period in 2011, which hurt the mining sector in European markets.

David Jones, chief market strategist at IG Index in London, blamed the two factors for the weakness seen on the day. He also added in an email that "we are seeing caution creeping back in as the eurozone crisis comes into focus once more."

Indeed, Euro Group President Jean-Claude Juncker is expected to meet with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to discuss a potential extension of the date at which the country completes its fiscal adjustment program. The program is designed to reduce the country's budget deficit, but it comes at the price of extreme austerity measures that have weighed heavily on its economy.

Later in the day, the Federal Reserve releases minutes from its latest policy setting meeting. The Fed has noted repeatedly that the U.S. economy is expanding only modestly, with unemployment only slowly falling. However, the central bank has come short of renewing outright asset purchases in favor of lengthening the maturity of its balance sheet.

"The main take away is likely to be a full discussion of what could be done, rather than a clear indication of what will be done," analysts at Barclays wrote in a note to clients. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is also set to give an address at the Fed's economic symposium in Jackson Hole next week. Bernanke sometimes uses the event to lay out futures monetary policy moves.

There is also a report on existing home sales due at 10:00 a.m. ET. Sales of existing, single-family homes are expected to have risen to an annualized rate of 4.52 million in July from 4.37 million the month before.

Oil futures were slightly lower. The benchmark contract traded in New York fell 17 cents, or 0.18%, to $96.66 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline dipped 0.05% to $3.064 a gallon.

In metals, gold ticked lower by 40 cents, or 0.02%, to $1,643 a troy ounce.

Foreign Markets

The Euro Stoxx 50 dropped 0.92% to 2467, the English FTSE 100 sold off by 1.1% to 5792 and the German DAX slumped 0.88% to 7027.

In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 slipped 0.27% to 9132 and the Japanese Nikkei 225 fell 0.78% to 19888.