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Futures Struggle for Direction Ahead of Fed Minutes

U.S. stock index futures hovered around the flatline Wednesday, after major averages logged their fourth-straight rally, ahead of the Federal Reserve's minutes from its latest policy meeting as investors will watch for hints as to when the central bank will pare back its bond-buying program.

After the FOMC minutes at 2 p.m. ET, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is scheduled to speak at 4:10 p.m. from the National Bureau of Economic Research conference. His topic will be "The First 100 Years: A Century of U.S. Central Banking: Goals, Frameworks, Accountability."

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"There's no reason to think Bernanke is going to be showing his hand right now," said Brian Edmonds, head of interest rates at Cantor Fitzgerald.

In earnings news, Family Dollar edged higher after the retailer edged past earnings expectations and raised its outlook for the year.

On the downside, Nabors Industries tumbled after the oil services provider said its second-quarter profit would fall short of Wall Street estimates, pointing to tougher competition and fewer rentals of its rigs.

Yum Brands is slated to post earnings, while Chevron is expected to give an interim update on its results after the closing bell.

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Hewlett-Packard rallied after Citigroup upgraded its rating on the tech giant to "buy" from "sell," pointing to increasing benefits from cost savings in the second half of the year, as well as increasing momentum from HP's services segment.

Apple edged lower after a federal judge ruled that the iPhone maker conspired to raise the retail prices of e-books, and said a trial for damages will follow.

On the economic front, weekly mortgage applications dropped last week as the surge in interest rates pushed borrowing costs to their highest level in two years, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Wholesale inventories for May will be released at 10 am ET. Economists in a Reuters survey forecast inventories to rise 0.3 percent versus an increase of 0.2 percent in April.

The government is scheduled to release the weekly oil and gasoline inventory data, which will be viewed with particular interest as U.S. crude oil was trading above $104 on Wednesday.

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The Treasury is scheduled to auction $21 billion in 10-year notes with the results available shortly after 1 pm ET.

Meanwhile in China, the Shanghai Composite rallied after dismal exports data for June piqued hopes that the People's Bank of China could ease monetary policy in order to boost growth.

"My base line is that there is no export growth in China this year, at least until we see a pick from the G-3 economies begin to materialize," said Tim Condon, head of research for Asia with ING Financial Markets.

In Europe, the euro recovered on Wednesday after tumbling to a three-month low against the dollar following Italy's downgrade by credit ratings agency S&P on Tuesday. Italy's government debt is now rated two notches above "junk" status, at BBB.

—By CNBC's JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)

Coming Up This Week:

WEDNESDAY: Wholesale trade, oil inventories, 10-yr note auction, FOMC minutes; Earnings from Yum Brands, Chevron (interim report)
THURSDAY: Jobless claims, import & export prices, natural gas inventories, 30-yr bond auction, Treasury budget, Fed balance sheet/money supply, chain store sales, Nokia event
FRIDAY: Producer price index, consumer sentiment; Earnings from JPMorgan, Wells Fargo, Infosys

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