Stock futures slipped on Thursday as investors awaited data on the labor market and a possible decision on further economic stimulus measures at the conclusion of a policy meeting by the Federal Open Market Committee.
The Federal Reserve appears poised to launch a third round of unconventional monetary stimulus, while signaling that a weak economy may warrant ultra-low interest rates for at least another three years. The FOMC announces its decision at about 12:30 p.m. EDT at the close of a two-day meeting.
With the S&P 500 <.SPX><.INX> up more than 9 percent since the start of June on expectations global central banks will act to combat slowing growth, some analysts are wondering how much further the index can climb.
Wall Street ended little changed on Wednesday, erasing early gains in cautious trading.
"Yesterday's action (in U.S. equities) was pretty indicative that everybody is waiting to see to see what action the Fed is going to take: Is there going to be a change in language, is there going to be no change or is there going to be the announcement of a new program," said Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst, Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.
"If they only do a language change or don't take action, the traders who have been the drivers of the market on the way up may drive the market downward."
At 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT), the Labor Department will release weekly initial jobless claims data. Economists in a Reuters survey forecast a total of 370,000 new filings compared with 365,000 in the prior week.
The August producer price index will also be released at 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT), with expectations for a 1.1 percent rise compared with a 0.3 percent increase in July. Excluding volatile food and energy items, PPI is expected to rise 0.2 percent, against a 0.4 percent increase in July.
S&P 500 futures fell 2.2 points 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 lost 25 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures shed 4.5 points.
European shares dipped, edging back further from the 14-month high hit in the previous session, with some saying action from the U.S. Federal Reserve is needed to provide further support to prices. <.EU>
Britain's BAE Systems and Airbus-owner EADS said they are in advanced talks to create an industry giant that would overtake rival Boeing in sales and contend with defense cutbacks in Europe and the United States.
Asian shares slipped slightly in choppy trade ahead of the Fed decision, with investors cautiously optimistic of further stimulus action to bolster the world's largest economy.
(Editing by Bernadette Baum)