Updated from 6:45 a.m. EST

Premarket futures were suggesting a lower open for U.S. stocks Wednesday, as the automakers attempted to secure their future by asking Congress for money, and several industrial heavyweights searched for answers in a troubled economic environment.

Futures for the

S&P 500

were down 18 points at 848 and were 9.7 points below fair value.

Nasdaq

futures were lower by 23 points at 1151 and were 5.5 points short of fair value.

Last time out, the major averages suffered through a whipsaw session to close with gains, as strong earnings from tech bellwether

Hewlett-Packard

(HPQ) - Get Report

helped traders look past ongoing troubles for financial firms and automakers.

Companies were still trying to adjust to the economic downturn and salve wounds inflicted by the faltering economy.

After arriving hat in hand on Capitol Hill Tuesday to plead their case for access to federal funding, chief executives of woebegone

automakers

General Motors

(GM) - Get Report

,

Ford

(F) - Get Report

and

Chrysler

will attempt again Wednesday to exchange a grilling by members of Congress for billions of dollars in government aid. The Big Three have been walloped lately by a combination of flagging sales, troubles in their finance divisions and high labor costs.

The U.S. auto companies weren't the only ones coping with a tough market.

Toyota

(TM) - Get Report

said it will cut production in North American plants and lay off 250 of its temporary workers.

Boeing

(BA) - Get Report

, which along with GM is a component of the

Dow Jones Industrial Average

, is resetting its production schedule as it attempts to recover from a strike by its machinists' union, according to a report by

The Wall Street Journal

.

Meanwhile, industrial conglomerate and fellow Dow company

General Electric

(GE) - Get Report

said it would reorganize its GE Capital finance branch to cut costs.

Elsewhere, government-controlled mortgage firm

Fannie Mae

( FNM) received notice from the

New York Stock Exchange

that it faces delisting if it can't keep its share price above $1.

In earnings news, bulk retailer

BJ's Wholesale

(BJ) - Get Report

reported rising third-quarter profit that was aided by gasoline sales.

As to

analyst actions

, Goldman Sachs put BlackBerry maker

Research In Motion

( RIMM) on its conviction buy list.

On the economic-data front, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that its consumer price index fell 1% for October thanks in part to falling energy prices. Economists were expecting a decline of 0.8%. The core rate dropped 0.1%, following a 0.1% uptick in September.

Separately, the Census Bureau said that

housing starts

declined 4.5% to an annual rate of 791,000 for October, a narrower drop than analysts had expected.

Minutes from the Oct. 29 meeting of the

Federal Reserve's

Open Market Committee are due out later today.

In the realm of commodities, crude oil was losing 72 cents to $53.67 a barrel. Gold was adding $3.20 to $735.90 an ounce.

Longer-dated U.S. Treasury securities were rising in price. The 10-year note was adding 24/32 to yield 3.44%, and the 30-year was up 30/32, yielding 4.06%. The dollar was climbing vs. the yen but weakening against the euro and pound.

Overseas, the FTSE in London and the DAX in Frankfurt were both trading lower. In

Asia

, Japan's Nikkei and Hong Kong's Hang Seng closed with losses.