Stock Futures Mixed as Fed-Speak Confuses Investors

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Stock futures were little changed Tuesday as varied comments from Federal Reserve officials about its economic stimulus program left investors uncertain about the direction of the central bank's tapering plans. Meanwhile, ongoing debate in Washington about funding the government for the new fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, is further complicating investor outlook.

Futures for the S&P 500 were down 2 points, or 3.69 points below fair value, to 1,690.75. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were off 6 points, or 3.38 points below fair value, to 15,320. Futures for the Nasdaq were up 2 points, or 0.46 points above fair value, to 3,211.

At 8:30 a.m. EDT, Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank President Sandra Pianalto is expected to give a speech to open the Chicago Fed payments conference in Chicago. Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank President Esther George is also expected to make an appearance at the event, at 12:30 p.m. George on Friday said that the central bank's decision to delay tapering was hurting its credibility.

On Monday, Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Richard Fisher echoed George's remarks, saying that an "increase uncertainty about the future conduct of policy and call the credibility of our communications into question." However, New York Fed Bank President William Dudley, during prior session, emphasized the economy's need for continued, aggressive accommodation, while Atlanta Federal Bank President Dennis Lockhart also voiced concern about the economic recovery.

In company news, Applied Materials ( AMAT) was the biggest gaining stock in the S&P 500, surging more than 7% to $17.16. The company and Tokyo Electron announced that they have agreed to an all-stock combination which values the new combined company at approximately $29 billion. The companies expect the transaction to close in mid to second half of 2014.

Lennar ( LEN ) was gaining 1.59% to $35.09 after the homebuilder reported third-quarter earnings of 54 cents a share, exceeding expectations by nine cents, as new orders rose 14%. "The long-term outlook for our business remains extremely bright," the company said.

Boeing ( BA ) was slipping 0.85% to $116.51 after South Korea rejected the aerospace giant's proposal to supply the country with 60 fighter jets, causing Boeing to lose out on a 8.3 trillion won ($7.7 billion) deal. South Korea's defense ministry said that the decision was made as the country finds that it requires a greater amount of air power than previously thought due to the nuclear program in North Korea.

Citigroup ( C ) said it is cutting about 1,000 jobs in Nevada and Texas, citing decreased demand for home loans and mortgage refinancing. Wells Fargo ( WFC ) said recently it was slashing more than 4,000 full-time mortgage-department jobs because of weaker demand, while Bank of America ( BAC) cut about 2,100 workers. Chrysler filed a share offering to return to the public stock markets, as the company's majority shareholder, Fiat, continues to press for full control of the automaker. Chrysler said late Monday that it filed a registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission for an IPO. The number and price of the shares hasn't been determined. The shares are expected to be traded on the New York Stock Exchange if a listing is consummated.Justice Department officials are preparing to file a civil lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase ( JPM ) over the bank's handling of residential mortgage-backed securities before the financial crisis, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

Burger King ( BKW ), the world's second-largest hamburger chain, is launching a new crinkle-cut french fry on Tuesday that has about 20% fewer calories than its regular french fries. Burger King said a small order of the new "Satisfries" has 270 calories because of a new batter that doesn't absorb as much oil. A small order of Burger King's regular fries has 340 calories.

A number of economic reports will be released Tuesday morning. The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-city home price index will be published at 9 a.m. A year-over-year gain of 12.4% for July is expected vs. 12.1% in June.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency's house price index for July will also be out at 9 a.m.

At 10 a.m., the Conference Board is expected to report that its consumer confidence index for September slipped to 79.9 from 81.5 in August.

The DAX in Germany was higher by 0.11% while the FTSE 100 was up 0.09%. The Hong Kong Hang Seng finished down 0.82%. The Nikkei 225 fell 0.07%.

The benchmark 10-year Treasury was up 4/32, diluting the yield to 2.691%. The dollar was rising 0.11% to $80.54 according to the U.S. dollar index.

November crude oil futures were off 47 cents to $103.12 a barrel. December gold futures were falling $8.30 to $1,318.70 an ounce.

Major U.S. stock markets finished Monday in the red, with the S&P 500and Dow Jones Industrial Average logging their first three-day decline in a month as investors weighed the sugar rush that the Federal Reserve's ultra-loose accommodation has been providing against the still vulnerable economic backdrop that caused the central bank to maintain its $85 billion per month bond-buying stimulus program.

-- Written by Andrea Tse in New York

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

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