To buy or sell, the eternal question, will be determined by economic data yet again Wednesday, as the CPI report overrides earnings news and downsizing announcements. Asia and Europe retreated, and the Dow is set to open lower.
Investors will try to sniff out signs of inflation in the monthly Consumer Price Index, to be released Wednesday morning by the Labor Department. It is expected to have risen 0.3 percent last month, the same rate recorded in July, according to economists surveyed by Reuters. Data on business inventories, which are expected to have expanded 0.6 percent in July, up from 0.3 percent in the prior month, will also slip across investors' radar.
Besides all the rate speculation, some earnings results may actually move shares Wednesday. Oracle came in on target, but missed whisper estimates, while Verity blew the top off First Call's prediction. AT&T and Seagate both plan to slash workforces in the name of cost-cutting.
A round-up of what should be the day's most active issues includes: AT&T Corp. (NYSE: T), Great Plains Software Inc. (Nasdaq: GPSI), Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL), Seagate Technology Inc. (NYSE: SEG) and Verity Inc. (Nasdaq: VRTY).
Internet and semiconductor stocks picked up some momentum Tuesday, leading the Nasdaq composite up 23 points to 2,868.24. But a stronger-than-expected jump in August's retail sales figures sent the Dow down 120 points to 10,910.33.
At the Bell
The Dow Jones industrial average may open about 40 points lower. The Standard & Poor's 500 index for June futures contracts was down 4.9 points to 1348 at 7:45 a.m. EST in 24-hour electronic trading.
The Inter@ctive Week @Net Index was ahead 6 to 309.18.
Trading in Asia followed US markets down on renewed fear of a rate hike, though the yen continued to soar against the dollar and euro. The Nikkei 225 fell 0.74 percent to 17,777, Singapore's Strait Times index lost 1.02 percent to 2,121 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng plummeted 2.71 percent to 13,431.
European markets were also into the red. London's FTSE 100 lost 0.77 percent to 6,069. The CAC 40 in Paris slipped 1.04 percent to 4,649 and the Xetra DAX in Frankfurt shed 0.95 percent to 5,350 at 6:50 a.m. EST.
Reuters contributed to this report.