Stock Futures Waffle Before Earnings, Economic Data

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures were wavering Wednesday as investors awaited third-quarter corporate announcements and some domestic economic releases.

"The market, in our opinion, is prepared to a large extent for the overall bad earnings comparisons that are about to be reported," said Scott Wren, senior equity strategist at Wells Fargo Advisors.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down 25 points, or 16.53 points below fair value, at 13,387. Futures for the S&P 500 were down 0.70 points, or 0.72 points below fair value, at 1435. Futures for the Nasdaq were falling 0.25 points, or 1.67 points below fair value, at 2733.

Costco Wholesale ( COST), the warehouse retailer, said Wednesday that fiscal-fourth-quarter net income rose 27%.

Meanwhile, Chevron ( CVX) said third-quarter earnings would be "substantially lower" than in the second quarter as oil production declined in the first two months of the quarter and it received a lower price from the sale of oil.

The oil giant said production took a hit from a fire at its refinery in Richmond, Calif., and disruptions from Hurricane Isaac.

Aluminum producer Alcoa ( AA) -- the first Dow component to report each quarter -- kicked off the unofficial start of the third-quarter earnings season Tuesday with a surprise profit, helped by productivity improvements and strong sales.

Shares of Alcoa rose marginally in after-hours action Tuesday.

Yum! Brands ( YUM), the restaurant operator whose brands include Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC, lifted its outlook for the full year to adjusted earnings of at least $3.24 a share after beating analysts' expectations in the third quarter.

The major U.S. stock averages finished just above session lows Tuesday as the International Monetary Fund's downgrade of its global economic outlook added to investor skittishness heading into the start of the new earnings season. Analysts anticipate seeing the first year-over-year earnings decline for the S&P 500 since the third quarter of 2009.

The Census Bureau is slated at 10 a.m. EDT to deliver wholesale inventories data for August; economists predict a rise of 0.5% after increasing 0.7% the prior month.

At 2 p.m. the Federal Reserve will be releasing its Beige Book business survey for September, which comes two weeks ahead of Federal Open Market Committee policy meetings.

"Expect conditions across the nation to not quite jive with the drop in the unemployment rate to 7.8%. Otherwise, why would the FOMC have launched QE3? So, to put it shortly, this matters," said Stephen Guilfoyle, U.S. economist at Meridian Equity Partners.

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