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Futures Slightly Lower Ahead of Fed Decision

CNBC.com and Reuters
Wednesday, 22 Jun 2011 | 8:15 AM ET

Futures pointed to a slightly lower open Wednesday as investors were cautious ahead of a decision by the Federal Reserve on monetary policy and waited for comments from chairman Ben Bernanke.

Stocks finished higher for the fourth straight day in the previous session with the Nasdaq turning positive for the year amid hopes Greece would take a key step to avoiding a debt default.

The confidence vote was passed in parliamentand enables the Greek government to push ahead with tough austerity measures which are key to avoid a default. However, fears that new bailout funds will not be unlocked remain a cause for concern.

Traders will be closely watching Ben Bernanke’s second post-meeting press conference at 2:15 pm ET. Many expect the Fed chairman to talk about why economic activity has slowed recently and expect him to say he sees momentum picking up in the second half of the year.

Bernanke will also likely comment on headline inflation pressures easingand say that core inflation is not a problem at the moment.

“If the data continued to disappoint…then we don’t think the Fed will hesitate on embarking on further asset purchases so a new round of QE (quantitative easing),” Sarah Hewin, regional head of research at Standard Chartered told CNBC.

End of QE2 Brings Uncertainty
"The market hates uncertainty, and right now the fear is who's going to show up at the treasury auctions," Peter Sorrentino, senior portfolio manager at Huntington Asset Advisors told CNBC. "The markets are fearful that the cash will go to the sidelines while we wait to see what's the direction of interest rates," he added.

In earnings news, Adobe slipped after the software maker reported earnings and revenue that topped analysts forecasts but its outlook fell short.

Meanwhile, FedEx gained after the shipping service giant posted better-than-expected profits and expect robust earnings in 2012. Rival UPS also rose following the news.

CarMax soared almost 10 percent after the used-car retailer's quarterly results blew past estimates as consumer continued to stay away from purchasing new cars in a slow-recovering economy.

And Jabil Circuit gained after the contract manufacturer reported earnings that beat estimates, thanks to a jump in revenue, but the firm expects current quarter profit largely below forecast.

Bed, Bath & Beyond is scheduled to post earnings after-the-bell tonight.

Philips Electronicsplunged after the world's biggest lighting maker warned of sharply lower profitsat two of its three key divisions and said it would announce cost cuts soon.

On the economic front, weekly mortgage applications fell last week as refinance demand dropped and interest rates rose, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

European markets were slightly lower on Wednesday morning, coming off Tuesday’s highs ahead of a vote of confidence for the Greek government.

Coming Up This Week:

WEDNESDAY: Weekly oil inventories, FOMC meeting announcement, Ben Bernanke speaks; Earnings from Bed Bath & Beyond
THURSDAY: Weekly jobless claims, new home sales, money supply, Yahoo shareholders meeting; Earnings from ConAgra, Discover Financial, Oracle, Accenture, Micron
FRIDAY: Durable goods, GDP, corporate profits

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