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Stock Futures Flat as Investors Seek More Fed Guidance

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures were little changed for much of the morning as investors stayed on the sidelines awaiting additional information from Federal Reserveofficials about the central bank's decision earlier this week to delay tapering of its economic stimulus.

Futures dropped briefly before resuming sideways trading after St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank President James Bullard told Bloomberg TV the central bank could still taper its $85 billion per month bond-buying program as early as October depending on the progress of the economy.

Futures for the S&P 500 were down 0.25 points, or 2.66 points above fair value, to 1,717.25. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down 8 points, or 19.45 points above fair value, to 15,565. Futures for the Nasdaq were up 4.5 points, or 7.94 points above fair value, to 3,236.75.

"This was a close decision here in September," Bullard said.

U.S. stocks slipped Thursday, a day after the S&P 500 reached new highs driven by the Federal Reserve's pledge to maintain the current pace of its asset purchase program as investors paused to mull over the situation that led to the central bank's decision.

"Investors rationalized that the two justifications presented -- observed tightening financial conditions may slow pace of economic improvement and labor market, and fiscal retrenchment is worrisome -- are in fact potentially burdensome on companies," Joyce Liu, an investment analyst at Phillip Futures in Singapore, said in a note.

Darden Restaurants ( DRI ) was slumping 4.48% to $47.09 after the company posted lower than expected first-quarter earnings per share of 53 cents versus the average analyst estimate of 70 cents as revenue fell short of expectations. In the first quarter, U.S. same-restaurant sales increased 3.2% at LongHorn Steakhouse, and declined 4% at Olive Garden and 5.2% at Red Lobster.

AK Steel ( AKS ) was plunging nearly 12% to $3.91 after the company said that it expects to incur a net loss of 22 cents to 27 cents a share in the third quarter as shipments fall by 5% to 6% due mainly to the impact of the unplanned outage at the company's Middletown Works blast furnace and to a seasonal reduction in shipments to the automotive market.

Apple ( AAPL) shares were rising 1.57% to $479.70 after the tech giant's new iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c went on sale online midnight Friday and will be available in Apple stores at 8 a.m. local time. Both phones will be available in the U.S., Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore and the U.K.

Goodyear Tire & Rubber ( GT ) was popping 4.9% to $23.32 after the company announced that it will be reinstating a quarterly cash dividend as well as plans for a $100 million share repurchase program.

The U.S. economic release calendar is essentially empty Friday after a busy week on data. However, a number of Fed officials are slated to speak following the central bank's surprise move to keep the current pace of bond-buying intact for the time being.

Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank President Esther George is scheduled to speak on the economy to Shadow Open Market Committee in New York beginning at 12:30 p.m. EDT.

Federal Reserve Gov. Daniel Tarullo is expected to speak on macroprudential regulation in New Haven, Conn., at 12:40 p.m.

St. Louis Fed Bank President James Bullard is slated to speak on monetary policy to the New York Association for Business Economics at 12:55 p.m.

Minneapolis Fed Bank President Narayana Kocherlakota is scheduled to speak at a conference on risk in options prices in New York at 1:45 p.m.

Increased trading volume is expected Friday given that it is a quadruple-witching day.

The FTSE 100 was up 0.04% and the DAX in Germany was rising 0.11%. The Nikkei 225 in Japan closed down 0.16%.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was unchanged with the yield at 2.758%. The dollar was rising 0.05% to $80.41 according to the U.S. dollar index.

December gold futures were falling $12.40 to $1,356.90 an ounce while November crude oil futures were up 3 cents to $105.89 a barrel.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Andrea Tse.>

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