New York - US stock index futures were little changed on Wednesday, ahead of a flurry of economic data, including a report on the labour market.
The benchmark S&P 500 had fallen for the three past sessions, putting the index on track to snap an eight-week winning streak, partly on concerns the US Federal Reserve may reduce its stimulus earlier than anticipated.
Many market participants expect the Fed to announce a cut to its $85 billion in monthly bond purchases in March, but recent economic data has suggested the move may come even sooner.
The Fed has said it would slow its stimulus program when certain economic measures meet its targets, including an improvement in the labour market.
“Markets are holding steady ahead of major economic data today, there's a lot of it,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Rockwell Global Capital in New York.
“I suspect all of the data is going to show there is an acceleration of economic activity so the Beige Book probably will hint, perhaps, to the Fed feeling more comfortable about the economic outlook and that will continue to attract sellers as the market pulls back.”
Investors will eye the November employment report from Automatic Data Processing at 8:15 a.m. EST (15:15 SA time) for clues on hiring ahead of Friday's key payrolls report.
Economists in a Reuters survey expect 173,000 jobs were created in November compared with 130,000 new jobs in October.
At 10:00 a.m. (17:00 SA Time), the Institute for Supply Management releases its November non-manufacturing index and the Commerce Department releases new home sales for September and October.
Economists in a Reuters survey forecast an ISM services reading of 55.0 versus 55.4 in October.
New home sales for September are forecast to show a total of 425,000 annualised units and 428,000 for October.
Later in the session at 2:00 p.m. (21:00 SA time), the Federal Reserve will release its Beige Book of regional economic conditions.
S&P 500 futures shed 0.3 point and were slightly below fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract.
Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 4 points and Nasdaq 100 futures added 2.25 points.
J.C. Penney Co Inc climbed 2.5 percent to $10.36 in premarket trading after the retailer said comparable sales, including e-commerce and sales at stores open at least a year, rose 10.1 percent during November, in the latest sign its turnaround is continuing.
Shares of clothing retailer Express Inc tumbled 15.7 percent to $20.80 in premarket trading after the company forecast current-quarter earnings below analysts' estimates, blaming weaker-than-expected Thanksgiving sales.
OmniVision Technologies Inc slumped 11.8 percent to $14 before the opening bell after the chipmaker forecast current-quarter revenue well below analysts' estimates.
European shares inched down, steadying after the previous session's steep losses, with Asia-focused bank Standard Chartered leading the decliners after it warned its profits will likely fall.
Most Asian shares slumped as the prospects of a reduction in the US Federal Reserve's stimulus early next year prompted investors to cash in gains from recent rallies.
The Dow and the S&P 500 fell for a third straight day on Tuesday, dropping from record levels as investors took profits amid signs of a weak holiday shopping season. - Reuters