U.S. stock index futures eased off their worst levels Wednesday, but gains were limited following some weak economic reports from Europe and ahead of the European Central Bank meeting later this week.
European shares traded lower, with investors cautious ahead of Thursday’s ECB meeting at which bank president Mario Draghi is expected to announce a bond-buying program to help countries such as Spain and Italy lower their borrowing costs.
Futures got a brief boost from earlier reports that the ECB would introduce an unlimited, sterilized program of bond purchases. But the central bank declined comment on the report. (Read More: Fed Watching ECB Just as Closely as Markets Are)
Meanwhile, a survey showed that the euro zone is likely to have slipped back into recessionin the current quarter, with Germany's composite PMI indicating the lowest reading since June 2009.
On the economic front, productivity increased at a much faster ratethan previously thought in the second quarter, rising at a 2.2 percent annual rate, according to the Labor Department. Economists had expected a reading of 1.8 percent.
On Tuesday, data from the Institute of Supply Management (ISM) showed U.S. manufacturing contracted at its fastest rate in three years in August, while July data from the Commerce Department showed the steepest decline in construction spending in a year.
FedEx slumped after the package-delivery company slashed its fiscal first-quarter forecast, saying the global economy is weaker than thought and hurting sales.
Facebook rose after CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he has no plans to sell his shares for at least 12 months, according to a SEC filing. Meanwhile, Facebook directors Marc Andreessen and Donald Graham will sell some of their shares, but only for tax-settlement purposes. In addition, Facebook employee lockup has been moved to October 29 from November 14. Shares hit an all-time low on Tuesday, falling more than 50 percent below its IPO price.
Nokia and Microsoft will be launching new devices at separate events in New York, a week before Apple is expected to unveil a new iPhone.
Among earnings, Dollar General gained after the retailer reported a bigger-than-expected increase in earnings and boosted its profit forecast for the year.
Weekly mortgage applications declined last week as demand for refinancing continued to slow and new home loans fell, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.
—By CNBC’s JeeYeon Park (Follow JeeYeon on Twitter: @JeeYeonParkCNBC)
Coming Up This Week:
WEDNESDAY: Microsoft/Nokia to unveil Windows 8 handset, Verizon/Motorola to unveil Droid RAZR; Earnings from H&R Block, Verifone
THURSDAY: Challenger job-cut report, ADP employment report, jobless claims, ISM non-mfg index, quarterly services survey, oil inventories, NY fashion week starts, Amazon.com press conference; Earnings from Hovnanian
FRIDAY: Gov't jobs report; Earnings from Kroger, Lululemon
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