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Futures Slightly Lower Ahead of Open

U.S. stock index futures were lower ahead of the open Wednesday as European debt concerns rumbled on and the prospect of further quantitative easing from the Federal Reserve put pressure on the dollar.

Stocks managed to end near session highs Tuesday after a volatile trading day, despite disappointing economic data.

There is increasing speculation that the Fed will introduce more fiscal easing at its November meeting. The dollar was weaker as a result, which helped the price of gold to hit fresh highs.

European shares were lower as the Irish Parliament gathered amid rising bond yields and ahead of another round of recapitalization for the nationalized lenderAnglo Irish Bank. Asian stocks ended higher in the wake of the positive U.S. close.

On the economic front, U.S. mortgage applications for both purchases and refinancings fell for a fourth straight week despite low interest rates, although the Mortgage Bankers' Association reported a boost in home loans for the week ended Sept. 24. The MBA's seasonally adjusted purchase index, a tentative early indicator of home sales, increased 2.4 percent, while the index for both loans and refinancings slipped 0.8 percent.

The Energy Information Administration will report U.S. fuel inventory details at 10:30 a.m.

A series of speeches by Federal Reserve presidents are on the calendar today: Minneapolis Fed President Naryana Kocherlakota will speak at 10:15 a.m. in London; Philadelphia Fed President Charles Plosser will appear at 12:30 p.m. in Vineland, New Jersey; and Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren speaks in New York at 1:15 p.m.

At 1 p.m. the results of Treasury's auction of 7-year notes will be released.

Hewlett-Packard is up slightly in the pre-market after it forecast better-than-expected fiscal 2011 revenue and earningsat its annual analysts conference on Tuesday. The tech giant did not, however, name a chief executive to succeed Mark Hurd.

Shares of Jabil Circuitrose in the pre-market after Needham Research raised the electronics-component maker to a "strong buy" from "buy." Jabil had slumped Tuesday after forecasting a lower-than-expected revenue target for the first quarter.

Amazon.com shares were lower in the pre-market despite a ratings upgrade from Barclays to "overweight," saying the Internet retailer will sell more than 5 million kindles this year for revenue of $1.7 billion. Barclays also raised the Internet retailer's price target to $180 from $132.

On the earnings front, shares of Family Dollar rose in pre-market trading after the discount retailer reported a 23 percent rise in fourth-quarter profit, beating Wall Street estimates. The company also said it could beat analyst estimates for the fiscal year.

A day after its shares tumbled, Monsanto is up in pre-market trading after Deutche Bank issued a "buy" rating for the stock, although it cut the seed-maker's price target to $65 from $70.

On Tap For This Week:

WEDNESDAY: Oil inventories; Minneapolis Fed Pres Kockerlakota speaks; Philadelphia Fed Pres Plosser speaks; Boston Fed Pres Rosengren speaks; 7-year note auction
THURSDAY: Reading on GDP; Weekly jobless claims; Corporate profits; Chicago PMI; Hearing on J&J recalls
FRIDAY: Personal spending; NY Fed Pres Dudley speaks; Consumer sentiment; ISM manufacturing index; Construction spending; Monthly auto sales; BP's Hayward steps down

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