U.S. stocks opened steady on Wednesday, as investors remained cautious ahead of the Federal Reserve''s policy meeting next week amid fresh uncertainty over the future of the central bank''s stimulus program.
During early U.S. trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average inched 0.01% higher, the S&P 500 index slipped 0.13%, while the Nasdaq Composite index eased up 0.01%.
Markets were jittery amid expectations that the Fed will hold off on tapering its USD85 billion-a-month asset purchase program at its upcoming policy meeting scheduled for December 17-18, despite last week’s stronger-than-forecast U.S. nonfarm payrolls report.
Late Tuesday, U.S. Senate Democrats and Republicans reached a deal to reduce automatic spending cuts and the deficit levels by USD23 billion over two years. The agreement still needs to be voted by the House of Representatives on Friday, as well as a by the Senate shortly after.
MasterCard surged 4.37% after the bank-card network said its board of directors approved an 83% dividend increase and a 10-for-1 stock split. The company also announced a new USD3.5 billion buyback program.
Adding to gains, Scripps Networks Interactive rallied 7.22% after a report said Discovery Communications may bid for the owner of HGTV and the Food Network.
Groupon advanced 4.08% after Wells Fargo upgraded the daily-deals website to "outperform" from "market perform," citing the company''s successful expansion beyond its daily deals origins.
Among earnings, Costco Wholesale reported first-quarter profit that trailed estimates, sending shares down 1.94%.
Joy Global plummeted 3.63% after the mining equipment company posted earnings that fell short of market expectations and reported fiscal 2014 guidance that missed estimates.
Elsewhere, Lululemon Athletica, up 0.04%, was reportedly looking to Laurent Potdevin, an outsider who hasn’t run a major retail chain, to lead the yoga-wear seller.
Other stocks likely to be in focus included Nordson, scheduled to release quaterly earnings reports later in the day.
Across the Atlantic, European stock markets were steady to higher. The EURO STOXX 50 inched up 0.06%, France’s CAC 40 gained 0.63%, Germany''s DAX eased up 0.02%, while Britain''s FTSE 100 added 0.10%.
During the Asian trading session, Hong Kong''s Hang Seng Index tumbled 1.71%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index retreated 0.62%.
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