NEW YORK (MarketWatch) — U.S. stock futures traded mildly lower on Wednesday, as investors struggled with a lack of progress in Congress over the budget and with continued uncertainty over when the Federal Reserve will taper its bond-buying program.
Stock-index futures offered virtually no reaction to data that had U.S. durable-goods orders rising 0.1% in August. Economists had expected orders to drop 1.5% in August after retreating 7.4% in July, with Boeing Co. (NYSE:BA) the source of the projected fall.
Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (CBE:DJZ3) fell 4 points to 15,282, while those for the Standard & Poor’s 500 index (GLC:SPZ3) were off 1.9 points at 1,690.60. Futures for the Nasdaq 100 index (CME:NDZ3) were flat at 3,213.25.
“The market remains very news-driven,” said Adam Sarhan, chief executive of Sarhan Capital, in emailed comments. “Investors are looking for clarity on both fiscal and monetary issues. At this point, the jury is still out on both issues and that is a primary reason why we are seeing stocks pull back over the past week.”
New-home sales for August, meanwhile, are forecast to rise to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 420,000, according to economists surveyed by MarketWatch. That data are due at 10 a.m. Eastern. Some investors are also looking ahead to Thursday’s gross domestic product revision for the second quarter and weekly jobless claims for further direction.
The Dow (DJI:DJIA) and the S&P 500 (SNC:SPX) logged a fourth day of losses on Tuesday, weighed by a fall in consumer confidence and the debt-ceiling fight.
“So far, this appears to be a normal pullback, but we are watching it closely to see if it develops into something more substantial,” said Sarhan. “Meanwhile, the intermediate and long-term environment remain healthy. One of the key factors of the entire 4.5 year bull market has been easy money from the Fed and (for now) that is alive and well.”
Late Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said the “calm out there […] is a bit greater than it should be” regarding concerns over the U.S. hitting its debt ceiling,” while Moody’s Investors Services warned of consequences of a failure of Congress to pass a budget before next Monday.
As lawmakers raced to get legislation approved, Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas spoke into the night and early hours of the morning on the Senate floor — he began at 2:40 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday — to protest President Barack Obama’s health-care program. He wants to block any government funding bill, unless it completely strips funding from the health law.
Shares of Amazon.com Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) gained 0.3% in premarket trade after the company announced new versions of its Kindle Fire tablet.
AutoZone Inc. (NYSE:AZO) said fiscal fourth-quarter earnings rose 15% as sales continued to improve. Shares fell slightly in premarket trading.
Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB) shares rose 1.6% after Canaccord Genuity initiated its coverage on the social-networking site with a buy rating and a price target of $60.
Overseas markets were largely weighted by U.S. budget-battle worries. Europe stocks made slight gains, whileAsia stocks fell, but Australian stocks outperformed. Gold and oil prices rose, while the dollar fell across the board.