Stock index futures were little changed on Wednesday, with investors cautious before retail sales data, which will be scrutinized for clues on the health of the consumer.
But a higher-than-expected profit from Applied Materials was likely to boost technology shares. Shares of the biggest producer of chip-making equipment rose 4 percent in trading after Tuesday's closing bell.
The Commerce Department is scheduled to release retail sales data for January at 8:30 a.m. EST. The weakening consumer sector, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the U.S. economy, has fueled concerns that a recession is increasingly likely. Any signs of further deterioration in consumer spending could hamper Wall Street's prospects of extending a two-day streak of gains.
Global equity markets were lower on Wednesday on concerns about the U.S. economy.
The market is just awaiting retail sales. I think AMAT's beat is important, as we need to see more positive news from the technology sector, said Paul Mendelsohn, chief investment strategist at Windham Financial Services in Charlotte, Vermont.
S&P 500 futures rose 0.80 point, roughly in line with fair value, a mathematical formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract.
Dow Jones industrial average futures fell 2 points. Nasdaq 100 futures rose 5 points.
Economists polled by Reuters expect a 0.2 percent fall in January retail sales, but excluding automobiles, sales are expected to rise 0.2 percent.
In other corporate news, shares of Genentech Inc rose 3.7 percent after the closing bell on Tuesday after it reported results that supported the potential of its drug, Avastin, in breast cancer patients. Shares rose to $72.48 in after-market trade after closing at $69.92.
The Dow Jones industrials and S&P 500 rose on Tuesday after Warren Buffett offered to reinsure $800 billion in municipal debt risk from the top three bond insurers, soothing worries about further fallout from the credit crisis.
(Editing by Kenneth Barry)