Stocks opened lower Wednesday as concerns mounted over the global economy and the US dollar continued to assert itself as a popular safety play.
Investors' concerns spanned the globe, from Spain to Dubai and Japan.
The S&P slashed its credit outlook for Spain to "negative" from "stable," saying the nation will experience more prolonged economic weakness than other nations.
That came after Fitch downgraded its credit rating on Greece a day earlier.
And in Dubai, Emaar Properties, the developer building the world's tallest skyscraper there, called off a merger with Dubai Holdings, the real-estate arm controlled by Dubai's ruler, exacerbating concerns about the emirate's debt problems. Dubai stocks fell for a third straight day, losing more than 6 percent today.
Japan said its economy grew at a much slower pace than first reported in the third quarter — 0.3 percent compared with 1.2 percent — thought a double-dip recession isn't expected.
Here in the U.S., wholesale inventories rose 0.3 percentin October, the first increase in over year.
3M shares opened higher after Citigroup upgraded the Dow component to "buy" from "neutral." The move came a day after the company's shares fell more than 1 percent when it issued an outlook that disappointed investors.
The company was among a handful of Dow gainers, while DuPont and United Technologies were the biggest losers on the blue-chip index.
Chip stocks took a hit after Texas Instruments said late Tuesday that its fourth-quarter earnings and revenue would be at the high end of its projected range but some investors had expected more.
Research In Motion shares advanced as traders bet on the BlackBerry maker's growth in China.
Dubai's troubles are likely to remain an overhang to the markets today, however, as the cost of insuring Dubai's debt against default is rising sharply this morning. That comes as investment arm Dubai World's property subsidiary, Nakheel, showed a 7 percent jump in liabilities to about $20 billion.
It's a light economic calendar once again today, with October wholesale inventories the only government statistic of note. Economists are looking for a drop of 0.7 percent when the number is released at 10 am New York time. September saw a decrease of 0.9 percent.
In one early report, the Mortgage Bankers Association said applications for home loans rose 8 percent last week, to the highest level in two months, as homeowners sought to lock into low rates through refinancing.
The Energy Information Administration will put out its reading on oil and gasoline inventories at 10:30 am.
Following strong demand at its 3-year note auction yesterday, the Treasury follows up today by selling $21 billion in 10-year notes, with the results available shortly after 1 pm.
The TARP program remains in the news, after Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner requested that the program be extended into 2010.
The market will also be watching health care stocks today, as Senate Democrats reach what's being called a broad agreement on eliminating the so-called public option. That agreement would see the government contract with a nonprofit insurer to provide a substitute for that option.
Health-insurance stocks rose after Senate Democrats agreed to eliminate the so-called public option in favor of a scaled-back nonprofit plan.