Meanwhile, the Institute for Supply Management's Chicago Purchasing Managers' Index came in at 56.5, beating expectations of a drop to 53 and only slightly below July's 58.5 reading. Readings above 50 indicate that an industry is growing. Still, business orders and production in the Chicago region are at their lowest level since Nov 2009.
A reading ahead of Friday's nonfarm payroll report this morning suggested modest job gains in August. Companies added 91,000 jobs in August, according to payroll processing firm Automatic Data Processing. The latest reading was below expectations for a 100,000 gain. July added a revised 109,000 numbers of jobs.
Hopes of more quantitative easing for the U.S. economy, which would likely boost commodity prices amid the extra liquidity, were thrown into confusion on Tuesday as the latest Federal Open Market Committee minutes revealed a deep rift among members over policy issues.
"In plain English, there are a number of Fed governors who are ready to vote for [a third round of quantitative] or its equivalent. Markets still think it could come, especially if we get more weak reports," say Cameron Hanover analysts. At the same time, "we know that three Fed governors dissented from the latest agreement and it seems that these three are against the Fed doing much of anything."
"Chairman [Ben] Bernanke is not keen to be lined up in anyone's crosshairs, especially after being blamed by a number of people for higher oil prices and for 'printing money,' which Governor [Rick] Perry looks at quite negatively," they added. "Mr. Bernanke is not keen to become a focal point in the coming election, and he knows he runs the risk of doing exactly that."
October natural gas futures were spiking 13.8 cents to $4.047 per million British thermal units as the markets kept their eye on thunderstorms developing in the vicinity of the Gulf of Mexico, a major area of natural gas operations.
Energy stocks were gaining ground.
(EOG - Get Report)
was rising 0.9% to $93;
(APA - Get Report)
was ahead by 0.8% to $103.46;
(SGY - Get Report)
was gaining 1.3% to $26.39;
(MUR - Get Report)
was adding 3.3% to $53.26;
(CHK - Get Report)
was up 0.2% to $32.49;
(KMI - Get Report)
was gaining 3% to $26.14; and
was rising 1% to $19.17.
-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York.
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