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Futures Down Slightly Ahead of Open

U.S. stock index futures are pointing to a lower open for the markets as investors continue to digest the Federal Reserve's statment Tuesday that it is willing to provide support to the economy.

In its statement Tuesday, the Federal Reserve said it was ready to take necessary stepsto help the recovery and that inflation was getting too low. Some analysts believe the Fed's statement could lead to a round of quantitative easing, by purchasing bond assets.

In a note to clients, Stifel Nicolaus said, "We believe yesterday’s policy statement represented another significant step toward the eventual resumption of QE."

Traders will be watching to see who replaces top White House economic adviser Larry Summers, who plans to leave his post at the end of the year. Summers, a former Treasury secretary, will return to Harvard.

Summers is the latest of President Barack Obama's economics team to step down, after former budget director Peter Orszag and Christina Romer, who was head of the council of Economic Advisors. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is staying in his job, according to a senior administration official.

In earnings news, General Mills' quarterly profit beat expectations and reaffirmed its full-year outlook based on strong sales of its cereals, yogurts, and snacks, although its quarterly sales slightly missed expectations. The food maker's shares were slightly higher in pre-market trading.

And shares of CarMax were higher in the pre-market after the used car dealership chain reported a 5 percent boost in profit in its fiscal second quarter, as revenues rose 13 percent. The company benefited from consumers affected by the economy, who favored previously owned cars and trucks.

Bed Bath & Beyond and Copart are among companies reporting after the bell.

Microsoft shares are down slightly in the pre-market cereals, yogurt and snacksafter the tech giant announced Tuesday after-the-bell that it raised its dividend by 25 percent to $0.16 per share.

Adobe Systems stock sank after its fourth quarter forecast disappointed investors, and PMC-Sierra stock fell after it lowered its revenue outlook.

Novartis' shares were slightly higher in pre-market trading after the company announced the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Gilenya, an oral drug to slow the disabling symptoms of multiple sclerosis.

Blockbuster was reportedly readying a bankruptcy filing sparked by a shift in consumer preferences to Internet-based video, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The US Energy Information Administration’s weekly report on crude oil inventories will be released at 10:30 a.m.

Other highlights include a Senate Banking Committee hearing on oversight of the SEC.

Concerns over European sovereign debt eased after bond auctions on Tuesday enjoyed strong demand, but fears that some countries may need further support persist.

On Tap for Next Week:

WEDNESDAY: Weekly mortgage applications; oil inventories; Wall Street & Washington Conference; Earnings from General Mills and Bed Bath & Beyond
THURSDAY: Weekly jobless claims; existing home sales; leading indicators; Chicago Fed President Evans speaks; Volcker speaks; FCC meeting on opening up new airwaves; Earnings from Rite Aid and Nike
FRIDAY: Durable goods orders; New home sales; Richmond Fed President Lacker speaks; Philadelphia Fed President Plosser speaks; NY Film Festival; Earnings from KB Home

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