NEW YORK -
U.S. stock index futures pointed to modest losses at the open on Wednesday, indicating equities would extend the previous day's steep decline, the S&P 500's worst since June.
Markets have been seeking new catalysts to keep pushing shares higher since the U.S. Federal Reserve and European Central Bank announced stimulus measures this month. The S&P is up almost 6 percent so far this quarter, with central banks' monetary stimulus responsible for much of the gain due.
Investor optimism, however, has weakened and the benchmark S&P 500 index has fallen for the past four sessions.
Slowing global growth may make continued improvement in company profits hard to come by. Tuesday's selloff came as Caterpillar Inc
"Buyers have reached a point of exhaustion after FedEx and Caterpillar and the like, all of whom pointed to economic weakness," said James Dailey, portfolio manager at TEAM Asset Strategy Fund in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. "People had been buying on the idea that the Fed would prop everything up, but if they can't, there's real potential for panic selling."
Technology company Jabil Circuit
S&P 500 futures fell 3.2 points and were below 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 5 points and Nasdaq 100 futures lost 11.25 points.
Investors are looking ahead to August new home sales, due at 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT) Analysts expect the report to show 380,000 units sold in the month, up modestly from 372,000 in July.
Weakness appeared in overseas markets as well. European shares <.FTEU3> slumped 1.5 percent. Growing opposition to measures aimed at resolving the euro zone's debt crisis unnerved investors already worried about weak global economic growth.
The S&P 500 is up 2.5 percent so far in September, historically a difficult month for the market, and recently hit the highest level in nearly five years.
"Lately, we've been at these levels because anytime there was a selloff like on Tuesday, we would buy on the dip," Dailey said. "If we continue to fall today, that would represent a very significant change in character for how we're responding to bad news."
The quarter's best performing stocks could be helped on Friday, the last session of the third quarter, as money managers add outperforming shares to dress up their portfolios. MetroPCS
While the housing market has shown signs of strengthening, and homebuilders have reported strong results recently, the July Case-Shiller report on home prices, released on Tuesday, came in weaker than expected.
U.S. stocks tumbled on Tuesday, pressured by Caterpillar's outlook and weakness in Apple Inc
(Editing by Kenneth Barry)