Wednesday's economic readings are expected to show a positive consumer heading into the holiday shopping season, but will likely show a murky picture for jobless claims, thanks to the impact of super storm Sandy.
Claims are expected to be about even with last week's elevated 439,000, when they are reported at 8:30 a.m. ET. University of Michigan consumer sentiment is expected to come in at 84, slightly below the preliminary reading for November, which was a five-year high.
"If it's bad news, it can be written off as Sandy," said Jack Ablin, CIO of BMO Private Bank. "What you probably have to do is you have to smooth out October, November, and December, and look at it that way. I think a lot of that kind of data is going to get a pass," he said.
(Read More: Blame It on Sandy)
The Dow was weighed down by Hewlett-Packard, which fell to a decade low, after it reported an $8.8 billion asset impairment charge related to its 2011 acquisition of Autonomy. Hewlett-Packard was down 12 percent.
Deere reports earnings ahead of the opening bell.
Wednesday was expected to be quiet with traders heading out early for Thursday's Thanksgiving Day holiday. The stock market reopens Friday for a shortened holiday session on what is known as "Black Friday," the official start of the holiday shopping season.
This year, a number of major retailers are kicking off the season early by opening late Thursday evening.
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