U.S. stock futures suggest a slow opening to markets on Monday, as investors await the release of the Federal Open Market Committee's, or FOMC, July meeting minutes, due to be released on Wednesday, for more insights into the thinking among Fed officials about the bank's quantitative-easing policy.
Investors are expected to tread with caution as they await the minutes of the July 30-31 policy meeting to be released on Wednesday at 2 p.m. EDT. Investors are likely to scour the minutes to learn about the possibility of the Fed scaling down its asset-purchase program as early as September. Upbeat economic data released over the past few weeks and recent speeches from some FOMC members have led to renewed fears that conditions might be ripe for the Fed to announce the winding down of its $85 billion-a-month bond buying program at its mid-September policy meeting.
"The markets will be itching to see the minutes of the late July FOMC meeting (due on Wednesday) to find out what they say about the possibility of the Fed beginning its QE3 taper in September. We still expect the Fed to begin reducing its $85bn per month of asset purchases next month," Paul Dales, an economist with Capital Economics wrote, in a research note.
Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average and Standard & Poor's 500 Index were flat, and those on the Nasdaq 100 index were up 0.12 percent.
Investors will also focus on the Fed’s annual conference in Jackson Hole, Wyo., at the end of the week, where central bank governors and economists will gather to discuss economic policy. But, this year's gathering is not expected to grab many headlines as many high-profile central bankers, including Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke are not expected to attend the meeting.
"The potential for one or more of the attendees to upset the Treasury market may be limited given the scale of the moves that have already taken place in anticipation of a shift in US monetary policy – such as the rise last week in the 10-year yield to a two-year high," Jessica Hinds, an economist with Capital Economics said, in a research note.
But, the retreat, at Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park, is expected to trigger speculation on who would be President Barack Obama's choice to replace Bernanke as the Fed's next chairman. However, Janet Yellen, the Fed's vice chair who is said to be one of the main contenders for Bernanke's post, is expected to moderate a panel, Reuters reported.
In Europe, markets were mostly trading lower on Monday. London’s FTSE 100 was down 0.04 percent, Germany’s DAX-30 was down 0.48 percent, while France's CAC-40 was trading down 0.68 percent.
In Asia markets traded mixed on Monday, with the Shanghai Composite index ending up 0.83 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index lost 0.34 percent and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 ended flat.
Japan’s Nikkei Stock Average closed up 0.79 percent, while South Korea’s KOSPI Composite index closed down 0.13 percent. India’s BSE Sensex was trading down 1.93 percent in late-afternoon trade.