US STOCKS-Futures steady, trading thin before Bernanke speech

Source : REUTERS
Last Updated: Wed, Aug 29, 2012 11:20 hrs

* S&P has moved less than 0.1 percent for past two days

* Pending home sales, second read on Q2 GDP on tap

* Dow down 7 pts, S&P down 0.3 pt, Nasdaq down 2.25 pts

By Ryan Vlastelica

NEW YORK, Aug 29 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were little changed on Wednesday, indicating a third day of limited action amid a dearth of trading incentives and as investors looked ahead to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's speech on Friday.

* Daily volume so far this week has been low even for a seasonally slow period. Volume is about 30 percent below the year-to-date average, an indication of how market participants are reluctant to make any major trading moves ahead of the Fed speech.

* Bernanke is scheduled to address a conference of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and could announce new measures to boost growth. He is expected to stoke expectations for a third round of quantitative easing, though he may not detail the timing of such a measure.

* In the absence of clarity on those issues, analysts expect light trading to continue. The S&P dipped over the past two sessions, but the decline was less than 0.1 percent on both days. It hasn't closed with a 1 percent move in either direction since Aug. 3.

* S&P 500 futures fell 0.3 point and were slightly under 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 fell 7 points and Nasdaq 100 futures lost 2.25 points.

* The S&P 500 has been pinned in a fairly tight range over the last three weeks, finding support at 1,400 while also unable to convincingly pierce the April high of 1,422.38, which has acted as a resistance point. The index has been unable to muster a move of at least 1 percent in either direction since Aug. 3.

* A second estimate on second-quarter gross domestic product is due to be released by the U.S. Commerce Department at 8:30 a.m. ET (1230 GMT). The reading is expected to show growth of 1.7 percent, compared with 1.5 percent in the first estimate published in July.

* Pending home sales are due out at 10:00 a.m. ET (1400 GMT)and are seen rising 1 percent in July, rebounding from a 1.4 percent decline in June. At 2:00 p.m. ET (1800 GMT), the Federal Reserve will publish the Beige Book of regional economic conditions. None of the data is likely to significantly change the perception of how likely QE3 is.

* In company news, a U.S. judge set a Dec. 6 court date to hear Apple Inc's request for a permanent injunction against Samsung Electronics' smartphones, which could delay the potential impact of Apple's crushing legal victory.

* WellPoint Inc Chief Executive Angela Braly abruptly stepped down late Tuesday following growing investor dissatisfaction with the health insurer's financial performance.

* Sources said private equity firm KKR Inc was in talks to invest about $1.3 billion for control of Japan's Renesas Electronics Corp.

* U.S. stocks ended little changed in another day of scarce activity on Tuesday after mixed economic data on consumer confidence and home prices gave investors little reason to shift their focus from Bernanke's upcoming speech.

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