U.S. stock index futures pointed slightly higher on Wednesday as investors awaited congressional testimony from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke for clues to the U.S. central bank's thinking on the economy.
Bernanke gives semiannual testimony on monetary policy and the state of the economy before the U.S. House Financial Services Committee. Investors wonder if a surprise hike in the discount rate last week could presage a rise in interest rates. The testimony is to start at about 10 a.m.
We certainly have had a modicum of wait-and-see attitude in this market this week, knowing that we're going to get a speech from Bernanke today, said Arthur Hogan, chief market analyst at Jefferies & Co in New York. All eyes will be on that, so the opening may be inconsequential
Hogan said Bernanke was not likely to say anything that will alter the Fed's promise to keep interest rates low for an extended period, predicting the market would gain today as a result.
S&P 500 futures were up 0.2 points and above 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 rose 1 point, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 4 points.
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On the economic front, the Commerce Dept releases new home sales for January at 10 a.m. EST (1500 GMT). Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a total 360,000 annualized units in the month, compared with 342,000 in December.
European shares were flat at midday Wednesday, with weak miners offsetting modest gains in banks. The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 <.FTEU3> index of top shares was little changed. Japan's Nikkei <.N225> lost nearly 1.5 percent.
U.S. stocks suffered their biggest one-day decline in nearly three weeks on Tuesday after a private report showed a sharp drop in consumer confidence, heightening worries about the economy.
(Reporting by Edward Krudy; editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)