It's a busy calendar on Wednesday as markets look to parse what was said at the FOMC meeting on June 18-19 to gauge the future of the U.S. Federal Reserve's bond-buying program. Investors will also have wholesale inventories data and corporate earnings figures to digest before Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's speech, which is scheduled for later in the day.
Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down 0.09 percent, while futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index were down 0.15 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index were down 0.14 percent.
Investors await the release, at 2:00 p.m. EDT, of the minutes of the FOMC meeting, and are likely to scour its contents for hints about the Fed's plans for its quantitative easing, or QE, program, and for insights into how much longer the current low interest-rate scenario would continue. Investors also eagerly await Bernanke's speech at the NBER Summer Institute in Boston at 4.10 p.m. EDT for direction on monetary policy decisions.
The U.S. Department of Commerce will release its wholesale inventories report, which measures the change in the total value of goods held in inventory by wholesalers, at 10.00 a.m. EDT. Inventories are expected to increase by 0.3 percent in May after a 0.2 percent growth in April.
Also, investors will continue to focus on earnings reports on Wednesday, with Fastenal Co. (NASDAQ:FAST) and Family Dollar Stores Inc. (NYSE:FDO) releasing their earnings reports before the market opens, and Yum Brands Inc. (NYSE:YUM) reporting its quarterly earnings after market hours.
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A record number of S&P 500 companies have issued negative earnings guidance for the second quarter. So far, S&P 500 companies have issued 97 negative earnings pre-announcements and only 15 positive ones, for a negative-to-positive ratio of 6.5, according to Thomson Reuters.
The guidance has contributed to a downward slide in second-quarter growth estimates, with earnings per share, or EPS, currently estimated to grow 3.0 percent, down from the 8.4 percent estimated at the beginning of the year.
Elsewhere, European markets were trading down Wednesday after disappointing trade data from China reinforced signs of a slowdown in the world’s second-largest economy and investors chose to tread cautiously ahead of the release of the FOMC minutes and the Fed chairman’s speech.
The Stoxx Europe 600 index traded down 0.32 percent, London’s FTSE 100 was down 0.43 percent, Germany's DAX-30 was down 0.35 percent and France's CAC-40 was trading down 0.43 percent.
In Asia, markets ended mixed while Chinese markets ended higher, despite China's disappointing trade data, which missed analyst expectations by a wide margin and showed a steep decline in the country’s exports and imports for the month of June.
Data released by the Chinese government on Wednesday showed that exports were down 3.1 percent from a year earlier and imports were down 0.7 percent. In contrast, economists had expected exports to have grown 4.0 percent and imports to have risen 8.0 percent in June.
China's Shanghai Composite index rallied up 2.17 percent while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index gained 1.07 percent. Japan’s Nikkei ended down 0.4 percent, retreating from a six-week high registered in the previous session, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 ended up 0.4 percent. South Korea’s KOSPI Composite index lost 0.34 percent while India’s BSE Sensex ended the day down 0.79 percent.