* S&P 500 has struggled to close over 100-day moving average
* Energy to be in focus with Syria situation uncertain
* H&R Block posts wider-than-expected quarterly loss
* Dow down 11 pts, S&P up 0.1 pt, Nasdaq down 2 pts
By Ryan Vlastelica
NEW YORK, Sept 4 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were
little changed Wednesday as a Western military strike against
Syria appeared more likely, though a decision over it remained
several days away.
The odds for military action had appeared to ebb over the
weekend after U.S. President Barack Obama said he would seek
Congressional authorization for a strike. While Congress won't
vote until it returns from its summer recess on Sept. 9, key
congressional figures back the plan, suggesting approval may be
Secretary of State John Kerry said any resolution approving
military force would prohibit "boots on the ground," suggesting
that a strike would be limited in scope.
"I think a relatively minor strike is now built into the
market. If the scope changes and we start talking about regime
change, the market will have to adjust again to that," said John
Brady, managing director at R.J. O'Brien & Associates in
"Until we get more clarity on the geopolitical news, I
suspect we'll continue trading in a tight range."
Uncertainty over Syria has been the market's primary driver
over the past week, with investors concerned about the economic
impact of any action. Energy has been the most impacted, with
crude rising 1.6 percent over the past two weeks as
investors bet that a Middle East engagement would limit oil
Adding to concern overseas, Italian shares slumped
on worries over the survival of the country's government.
European shares lost 0.4 percent.
S&P 500 futures rose 0.1 point and were slightly
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 slid
11 points and Nasdaq 100 futures lost 2 points.
On the S&P 500, investors will be watching the 1,639.88
level, the index's 100-day moving average. The index has risen
above that level in each of the past four sessions, though it
hasn't closed above it since Aug. 26, a sign that near-term
momentum continues to stall.
H&R Block Inc reported an adjusted quarterly loss
late Tuesday that was wider than expected, citing higher costs.
Shares fell 4.9 percent to $26.50 in premarket trading.
SAIC Inc and Dollar General Corp reported
results early on Wednesday.
Hain Celestial Group Inc shares will be in focus a
day after the company said that activist investor Carl Icahn and
his entities were cutting their stake in the company by roughly
While geopolitical issues have been the primary focus for
investors, they also await the latest economic data, with the
July international trade figures out at 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230
The U.S. Federal Reserve's Beige Book summary of economic
conditions will be released at 2:00 p.m., and the report will be
closely scoured for insight into when the central bank may begin
to slow its accommodative monetary policies, which have fueled
the equity market's gains in 2013.
Wall Street rose on Tuesday, but pared its gains in
afternoon trading as key figures in Congress announced support
for military action against Syria.