Stock index futures fell on Tuesday after a Wall Street Journal article cast doubt on the chances for a Federal Reserve interest rate cut on Wednesday.
Stocks may also struggle after U.S. Steel Corp posted a 35 percent slide in third-quarter profit. The company also warned of an earnings decline in the fourth quarter.
Stocks have risen recently, in part, on a widely held view the Fed would cut rates on Wednesday by at least a quarter percentage point. But Greg Ip, the newspaper's Fed watcher, wrote on Tuesday the policy makers are not considering a half-point cut and that a quarter-point cut is no sure thing.
The whole bull case is based on the Fed saving everybody, said Peter Boockvar, equity strategist at Miller Tabak & Co in New York. It seems the market is bullying them into cutting. If there's a cut tomorrow, they will possibly talk a little tougher in the statement and not lead the market into thinking they're going to do it again in December.
S&P 500 futures were down 9 points, below 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 57 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures were down 9 points.
Ailing homebuilder and mortgage-related stocks may fall after the Standard & Poor's/Case Shiller index showed prices of existing single-family homes dropped further in August in the biggest year-over-year decline since April 1991.
The Fed's Open Market Committee is scheduled to begin a two-day policy meeting later on Tuesday, with a decision expected on Wednesday afternoon.
In takeover deal news, Ventana Medical Systems said late on Monday that it still finds Swiss drug maker Roche's $3 billion hostile bid inadequate.
Iceland's Baugur Group said late on Monday it could join Dubai-owned Landmark Group in a bid for Saks, sending shares of the luxury department store chain up 9 percent in after-hours trading.
Shares of Procter & Gamble, the consumer products company, fell 3.2 percent to $69.50 after it said earnings, excluding items, were in line with Wall Street's expectations.
U.S. Steel shares dropped 5 percent to $107 before the bell on Tuesday.
Wall Street will get clues about the health of the consumer at 10 a.m. when the Conference Board releases the results of its October consumer confidence survey.