Wall Street eyes earnings, Ukraine tensions remain

U.S. stock index futures signaled a higher open early on Wednesday, following global markets higher, with investors focused on corporate releases and continued tensions in Ukraine and Iraq.

Futures did not move significantly on news that retail sales for July were flat, missing estimates and the weakest reading since January. Shares of major retailers in pre-market trading were down slightly following the report.

Department store group Macy's reported an increase in profit but posted earnings that missed analyst estimates on Wednesday morning, which could put the spotlight on the major retailers.

Equipment maker Deere posted earnings that beat on revenue in line with estimates, while lowering its full-year forecast.

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U.S. stocks closed down in light volume trade on Tuesday for the first time in three sessions as developments in Ukraine and Russia continued to trouble investors. A Russian convoy of trucks carrying humanitarian aid left Moscow for Ukraine on Tuesday despite the international community warning that it shouldn't be used as a pretext for an invasion.

Kiev, meanwhile, has said it would not allow the vehicles to cross on to its territory. This comes as fighting between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian rebels continues in the east of the country. Calming words from Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski gave investors some comfort on Wednesday along with reports that the convoy will travel under cooperation with the Red Cross. Russian blue-chip stocks were trading higher by 1.3 percent in morning trade.

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In Iraq, 130 military advisors for the U.S. have arrived in Irbil, which includes marines and special operations forces who assess the humanitarian situation in the north of the country. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on Tuesday reiterated that the U.S. is not going back into Iraq with a "combat boots-on-the-ground operation." The price of oil slipped further on Wednesday morning, with Brent futures falling to 13-month lows.

In Europe, stocks were posting gains after some better-than-expected corporate releases from the insurance sector. In Asia, shares traded mixed as markets shrugged off poor data on the Japanese economy and key monthly indicators from China.

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Back in the U.S., a weekly report showed a decline in mortgage application volume despite lower mortgage rates and far less dramatic home prices than a year ago.

Business inventories data is expected at 10 a.m. ET.

Earnings are also expected from Canadian Solar, Pinnacle Foods and SeaWorld. Cisco, NetApp, Iamgold, Silver Wheaton and Noodles and Co report after the closing bell. Markets will be monitoring comments from New York Fed President William Dudley at 9:05 a.m. and Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren at 9:20 a.m. They are speaking at a conference on the risks of wholesale funding.

Read MoreUkraine says may block Russian aid convoy