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Stock futures narrowly mixed ahead of opening

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[June 09, 2010]  NEW YORK (AP) -- Stock futures traded in a narrow range Wednesday as investors remain cautious about whether the economy will continue to show signs of growth.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is scheduled to testify before the House Budget Committee. He is likely to reiterate his comments from late Monday that the economy is improving, but progress will be slow. His reassurances helped push stocks higher Tuesday.

The Fed is also set to release its beige book report later Wednesday. The report provides a snapshot of regional economic activity. A more positive tone by the Fed, which has been guarded in its assessment of the economy thus far, could provide the impetus to push stocks higher.


A separate report is expected to show inventories at the wholesale level rose for the fourth straight month, while sales likely climbed for the 13th straight month in April.

Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters expect that inventories at the wholesale level rose 0.5 percent in April, while sales rose 0.6 percent. That compares with inventory growth of 0.4 percent and a jump in sales of 2.4 percent in March.

The slowdown in sales would be consistent with recent data that shows the economy is improving, but growth is slow and sometimes choppy. The report is due out at 10 a.m. EDT.

Despite expected signs of growth in the U.S., concerns about the health of Europe's economy has kept traders on edge. The euro has traded in a tight range overnight and major European indexes fell.

Governments across the continent are planning deep spending cuts to contain rising debt, which investors worry will bring even a modest global economic recovery to a halt.

There is also a push to increase regulation on financial markets, similar to the new rules being hammered out by Congress in the U.S. German and French leaders sent a letter to the European Commission urging new rules to crack down on speculative trading.

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Ahead of the opening bell, Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 2, or less than 0.1 percent, to 9,916. Standard & Poor's 500 index futures rose 0.70, or 0.1 percent, to 1,059.90, while Nasdaq 100 index futures fell 1.50, or 0.1 percent, to 1,790.00.

Futures have been following the lead of European markets and the euro for more than a month. However, early trading has not been a strong indicator in recent days of how the market will end the day.

On Monday, stocks plummeted during the last hour of trading. They did the reverse Tuesday, rising sharply at the end of the session.

Gold prices retreated Wednesday after setting a record high a day earlier. Gold fell $8.60 to $1,237.00 an ounce. It rose as high as $1,254.40 an ounce on Tuesday.

Oil prices rose modestly.

Bond prices were little changed. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note, which moves opposite its price, was unchanged at 3.19 percent compared with late Tuesday.

Overseas, Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.5 percent, Germany's DAX index dropped 0.4 percent, and France's CAC-40 dipped 0.1 percent. Japan's Nikkei stock average fell 1 percent.

[Associated Press; By STEPHEN BERNARD]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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