A gain in durable goods orders that was in line with Wall Street expectations did little to brighten the mood of investors, who accelerated stock index futures losses after the report showed gains in manufacturing.
Orders for long-lasting goods gained 1 percentin September, though compared to last year fell more than 24 percent.
Slow growth seemed to be the theme of the day, with the market nursing a hangover from a consumer confidence report Tuesday that also sounded the theme of economic fragility.
The techs are being hit particularly hard, with the Nasdaq now lower for October, though the Dow and S&P 500 are still higher for the month.
The market will be watching additional economic news through the day, as new home sales figures will be released at 10 am New York time, with the consensus forecast calling for a 2.6 percent rise for September following an increase of 0.7 percent in August.
The Energy Department's weekly read on crude oil inventories comes at 10:30 am New York time.
The first report of the day saw mortgage applications fall for the third week in a rowand new purchase applications at their lowest levels since May.
On the positive side, health insurer WellPoint reported a profit of $1.53 a share that, though lower than last year, beat analyst estimates, sending shares 2.8 percent higher in premarket trading.
Qwest Communications also reported a drop in profit but one that beat expectations, sending its shares 2.9 percent higher before the open.
But ArcelorMittal , the world's largest steelmaker, put a damper on things by projecting a weak fourth quarter even though it was profitable in the third quarter. Its domestically traded shares fell 1.4 percent premarket.
Elsewhere, the Treasury continues its record week of auctions with the sale of $41 billion in 5-year notes.
Yesterday's sale of 2-year notes saw extremely strong demand; today's auction comes at 1 pm.
It's a fairly busy morning for corporate earnings once again. Among the other notables:
Coca-Cola Enterprises; ConocoPhillips; General Dynamics; Goodyear Tire; Hess Corporation; International Paper; Interpublic; Jones Apparel; Meadwestvaco; Newell Rubbermaid; Owens Corning; Sealed Air; Southern Co.; and Wyndham Worldwide.