Dow and S&P 500 index futures pointed to a lower open on Wednesday after a report showed a second straight month of declining U.S. retail sales, though better-than-expected results from technology bellwether Intel Corp limited losses in the Nasdaq.
Investors also looked ahead to a statement from the Federal Reserve later Wednesday about the outlook for the economy, as stocks wavered following six sessions of gains.
The Fed's economic forecasts will be released alongside the minutes from its most recent monetary policy meeting. Some are expecting Fed officials to cut their outlook for U.S. economic growth, tracking recent moves by Wall Street economists.
If the Fed declares that growth will be marked down and we won't be roaring into recovery in the second half of the year, that's going to dampen enthusiasm, said Edward Riley, chief executive of Riley Asset Management in Boston.
Intel , a Dow component, climbed 6 percent to $22.27 in premarket trading a day after it posted better-than-expected results, allaying concerns about a slowdown in technology business spending.
Intel indicates that the health of the tech sector in general is still extremely strong, Riley said. I'd be disappointed if after the Fed statement investors didn't refocus on that since its sufficient to support a much better stock market.
With the S&P 500 index up 8 percent from a recent intraday low on July 1, investors are scrutinizing early second-quarter earnings reports for evidence that the rally can be sustained.
S&P 500 futures fell 3 points and were below fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract. Dow Jones industrial average futures fell 7 points, while Nasdaq 100 futures gained 2.8 points.
Sales at U.S. retailers fell for a second month in June, pulled down by weak receipts at automotive dealers and gasoline stations. The report could reduce positive sentiment along with the Fed statement.
Goldman Sachs downgraded the homebuilder and chemical sectors to neutral from attractive and downgraded stocks in both groups. The firm wrote that the housing recovery was occurring more slowly and said there were less inspiring trends in key chemical end markets.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Nokia Siemens Networks is in talks to buy the telecom-equipment arm of Motorola Inc in a deal that could be worth $1.1 billion to $1.3 billion. Motorola shares gained 1.1 percent in premarket trade.
U.S. Senate Democrats on Tuesday appeared to nail down the votes needed to approve a historic overhaul of U.S. financial regulations and set up a final vote by the end of the week.
Also late Tuesday, fast food chain operator Yum Brands Inc gave a full-year profit outlook that was below expectations. The stock was down 3 percent to $40.48 before the bell.
(Editing by Padraic Cassidy)