US stock index futures slightly decrease before economic data

US stock-index futures were little changed toward red, before the Federal Reserve releases minutes of its latest policy meeting later today, and as investors await data on retail sales existing home sales and consumer price index.

Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 expiring in December slipped 0.1% to 1,782.80 at 12:14 p.m. in London. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures declined 4 points, or less than 0.1%, to 15,930 today.

After US market close on Tuesday, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said the central bank would like to move away from using its balance sheet to help the economy. However, he emphasized plans to continue loose monetary policy and said the Fed would likely hold rates near zero well after the economy reaches the 6.5% unemployment rate that it has said is the threshold for considering a rate increase.

“The message from Bernanke’s speech was very much as we have come to expect from the Chairman with an emphasis on lower for longer rates and the data-dependency of QE. He agreed with [Fed Chairwoman Janet] Yellen’s recent testimony that the surest path to a more normal approach to monetary policy is for the Fed to do all it can today to promote a more robust recovery,” Jim Reid, macro strategist at Deutsche Bank, said in a note, cited by The Wall Street Journal.

At 8:30 a.m. EDT retail sales are due to be reported. Sales may have been hurt by the government shutdown, but slow wage growth and a high unemployment rate have been the biggest drags on retail shopping.

Existing-home sales data should be issued at 10 a.m. Higher mortgage rates compared to late summer could be causing sales to decline.

In corporate world, Yahoo advanced 3.4% to $35.81 in German trading. The company is returning more cash to shareholders as Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer seeks to revive growth. The internet portal has repurchased $5.3 billion in stock since January 2012, including $1.7 billion in the third quarter, the company said on its earnings conference call on October 15.

J.C. Penney Co. is projected to report a loss of $1.70 a share in the third quarter, according to a consensus survey by FactSet.

Lowe’s Cos. declined 3.9% in pre-market trade after the home-improvement chain reported earnings.

Staples Inc. was also likely to be active later after the company reported third-quarter adjusted earnings per share of 42 cents, in line with analyst expectations.

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