US stock futures lower as economy ekes out meager growth; investors wait on Fed statement

EnergyAssociated Press

U.S. stock futures were lower after the economy skidded to a near halt in the first three months of the year after being battered by harsh weather, plunging exports and sharp cutbacks in oil and gas drilling.

Investors will also focus on minutes from the Federal Reserve's April policy meeting, to be published later in the day.

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KEEPING SCORE: Futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 15 points, or 0.7 percent, to 2,096.30, indicating a lower open for U.S. stocks.

US ECONOMY: The overall economy grew at a barely discernible annual rate of 0.2 percent in the January-March quarter, the Commerce Department reported Wednesday. That is the poorest showing in a year and down from 2.2 percent growth in the fourth quarter. Plummeting exports pulled growth down by nearly a full percentage point.

FED STATEMENT: Hours after the U.S. economic data is released, the Federal Reserve is set to issue a policy statement from its two-day meeting. Investors will be looking for any hints on when it will raise interest rates but expectations now are that they'll stay at record lows until at least September. The tempered outlook has also weakened the dollar against other major currencies.

EUROPE'S DAY: France's CAC-40 fell 1.12 percent and Germany's DAX fell 1.4 percent. Britain's FTSE 100 edged down 0.6 percent.

ASIA'S DAY: Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.2 percent and South Korea's Kospi fell 0.2 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China ended flat after swinging between losses in the morning and gains in the afternoon. Australia's S&P ASX/200 sank 1.9 percent. Japan's stock market was closed for a holiday.

EARNINGS: Corporate earnings reports were mostly weak, particularly in Asia. Samsung Electronics said its first quarter income plunged 39 percent as consumers switched to Apple's bigger iPhones. LG Electronics saw profit plunge 59 percent because of losses at its TV business and state-owned Agricultural Bank of China reported that profit edged up just 1.5 percent as the world's second biggest economy slowed.

Reports were mixed in Europe, where Barclays bank booked a 52 percent drop in earnings as it accounted for the cost of regulatory fines, though Volkswagen saw its profit rise by about a fifth.

CURRENCIES, BONDS: The dollar rose to 119.23 yen from 118.82 yen late Tuesday. The euro rose to $1.1006 from $1.0972. U.S. government bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.05 percent from 2 percent late Tuesday.

ENERGY: U.S. benchmark crude dipped 8 cents to $56.98 a barrel in New York. Brent crude rose 23 cents to $64.88 a barrel in London.