Stock index futures pointed to a lower open Wednesday ahead of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s first appearance before the House of Representatives since the Republicans took control.
Bernanke appears before the House Budget Committeeat 10 a.m. in what promises to be one of the most-widely-watched events of the trading day.
Bernanke's efforts to boost the economy through a $600 billion bond-buying program have come under fire and staunch Fed critic Rep.Ron Paul (R-Texas) will hold a hearing on whether the Fed's bond-buying program and record-low interest rates can really help cut unemployment.
Statements by Fed governors on Tuesday indicated that some Fed officials are prepared to discuss a tightening of monetary policy in light of looming inflation.
Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker said the Fed should be willing to cut back its $600 billion in Treasury purchases if employment improves and consumer spending holds up.
Brian Sack, the executive vice president of the Markets Group at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, is scheduled to speak at an event at the Philadelphia Fed at 5:45 p.m. ET. Sack is expected to discuss the Fed's asset purchase program.
Stocks closed higher in the previous session, even as China's latest rate hike held back global stock markets initially.
In the morning's economic news, applications for U.S. home mortgages dropped last weekas the highest interest rates in 10 months sapped demand for home loan refinancing, acording to the Mortgage Bankers Association. The group said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity, which includes both refinancing and home purchase demand, fell 5.5 percent in the week ended Feb. 4.