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Stock Market Today: Futures Downbeat as International Markets Sink

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures were downbeat Wednesday as the markets were inundated with negative geopolitical and economic news, with concerns further worsened by worries about an early interest rate hike from the Federal Reserve.

With earnings season winding down, there appears to be less that can distract the markets from the confluence of Wednesday's negative headlines.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were 71 points lower, or 67.47 points below fair value, to 16,295. Futures for the S&P 500 were shedding 7.5 points, or 9.01 points below fair value, to 1,905.5.

Nasdaq futures were behind by 20 points, or 16.64 points below fair value, to 3,851.8.

U.S. stocks on Tuesday finished at session lows after being pressured by a ramp-up of tensions in Ukraine. Better-than-expected economic data failed to help the S&P 500 sustain a recovery from last week's worse slump in two years.

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Time Warner (TWX - Get Report) shares were plummeting more than 11% to $75.75 in premarket trading after 21st Century Fox (FOXA - Get Report) withdrew its $80 billion stock-and-cash offer to acquire its long-time rival. News that Time Warner reported earnings of 98 cents a share vs. consensus estimates of 84 cents failed to fuel any share-price strength.

A handful of other top corporate headlines were crossing the wires Wednesday.

Apple (AAPL) and Samsung agreed to end all patent lawsuits between each other outside the U.S. in a step back from three years of legal hostilities between the world's two largest smartphone makers. Meanwhile, China's government excluded Apple iPads and MacBook laptops from the list of products that can be bought with public money because of security concerns, Bloomberg reported, citing government officials familiar with the matter.

Sprint (S) decided Tuesday to end its pursuit of T-Mobile (TMUS)  in the face of stiff opposition from regulators and replace CEO Dan Hesse with Marcelo Claure, a billionaire entrepreneur who is untested as a wireless operator, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Groupon (GRPN) on Tuesday posted a wider second-quarter loss, weighed down by acquisition-related costs and other one-time expenses. Walt Disney (DIS) said third-quarter net income rose 22%, topping analysts' expectations, as animated hit "Frozen" helped revenue rise 8% to $12.47 billion.

European and Asian markets fell Wednesday, as a buildup of Russian forces near the Ukraine border sparked fears of an invasion. An unexpected decline in German factory orders also drove the jitters.

News that Russia has amassed 20,000 combat-ready troops -- reportedly special forces as well as troops with armor, artillery and air defense capabilities -- on its eastern border with Ukraine raised concerns about imminent military intervention. Russian President Vladimir Putin also ordered his government to retaliate against U.S. and European sanctions, albeit without harming Russian consumers.

Factory orders have been suffering in Europe's largest economy, a situation that Berlin's Economics Ministry blames on geopolitical developments and risks. These factors have led to a "certain holding back" on orders. Germany's Federal Statistics Office said Wednesday that factory orders fell 3.2% in June, the greatest drop in two and a half years, after declining by 1.6% in May.

Elsewhere, the eurozone's third-largest economy, Italy, slumped back into a recession during the second quarter. GDP was down 0.2% from the first quarter.

The Census Bureau reported before the market open that the U.S. trade deficit shrank to $41.5 billion in June, compared with the average estimate of $45.2 billion.

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas president Richard Fisher said Tuesday evening that the central bank could hike interest rates earlier than the widely expected mid-2015 target if U.S. economic data continue to strengthen. "We are going to have to move the date of liftoff further forward than had been projected," Fisher said on Fox Business Network.

-- By Andrea Tse in New York

Follow @AndreaTTse

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