U.S. investors will be focused on Capitol Hill on Thursday as the Fed Chairman is set to testify before a Senate committee. Most of the major Asian markets were closed for the Chinese New Year while markets in Europe traded higher. Early indicators have the Dow set to open slightly higher.
Investors will be closely watching Alan Greenspan's testimony before a Senate committee, hoping for preview of more interest rate cuts as well as insight into the Fed boss' position on tax cuts.
While analysts await clues to the magnitude of an expected rate cut by the Fed, the more interesting question could be the Chairman's position on the Bush administration's tax cut plans. While in the past, Greenspan has opposed such measures, sources told the newspaper USA Today that the Chairman may shift his position due to the size of the government surplus.
Another key economic indicator is set to be released before the bell. The Labor Department's Employment Cost Index (ECI) for the fourth quarter is expected to rise 1.1 percent, up from 0.9 percent in the previous period, according to analysts surveyed by Briefing.com.
Among a number of big tech names reporting after yesterday's close, fiber optic giant Corning (NYSE: GLW) beat estimates for its fourth quarter, but fell in after hours trading after warning of softer demand from telecom companies.
Expect the following technology stocks to be among Thursday's most actively traded issues: Akamai Technologies (Nasdaq: AKAM), Exodus Communications (Nasdaq: EXDS), VeriSign (Nasdaq: VRSN) and Veritas (Nasdaq: VRTS).
The Nasdaq gained 18.76 to 2,859.15 in Wednesday's session while the Dow Jones industrial average slipped 2.84 to 10,646.97.
At the Bell
The Dow Jones industrial average is expected to open up 2 points. The Standard & Poor's 500 futures index inched up 0.30 to 1370.50 at 7:24 a.m. EST in 24-hour electronic trading.
The Inter@ctive Week @Net Index rose 8 to 338.69.
The Nikkei 225 dropped 90.20 to 13,803.38. Markets in Hong Kong and Singapore remained closed for the Chinese New Year holiday.
European markets were gaining ground. London's FTSE 100 inched up 3.90 to 6,268.30, the CAC 40 in Paris traded up 33.29 to 5,933.61 and in Frankfurt, the DAX gained 45.17 to 6,751.84 at 7:11 a.m. EST.
Reuters contributed to this report.