U.S. stock futures were flat Wednesday as concerns about China's slowing growth mounted amid weak earnings sentiment.
Late Tuesday, aluminum producer Aloca(AA) cut its forecast for Chinese demand due to its slowing economy. The poor outlook came a day after a report showed Japanese car sales in China fell unexpectedly -- partly due to worsening Sino-Japanese relations over a territorial dispute concerning a band of islands.
In the United States, third-quarter earnings continued Wednesday morning with Costco(COST) reporting better-than-expected earnings.
Third-quarter earnings season unofficially kicked off Tuesday with Alcoa and restaurant operator Yum Brands(YUM). Alcoa's grim forecast pushed shares down slightly in premarket trading. Yum Brands shares rose 4% in premarket trading, a day after it reported earnings that beat expectations.
Analysts are expecting third-quarter earnings for the S&P 500 to decline 1.2%, according to S&P Capital IQ. That would be the worst since the third quarter of 2009.
In addition to earnings, investors will get a reading on the health of regional economies when the Federal Reserve releases its Beige Book at 2 p.m. ET. But analysts aren't expecting too many surprises.
"It's probably more of the same," said Dick Dickson, a technical market analyst for Lowry Research in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. "You're not seeing the kind of strong economic growth that will give a steady drop in unemployment."
In other economic news, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported mortgage applications fell 1.2% last week compared to the previous week. And at 10 a.m. ET, the the Census Bureau will issue its report on wholesale trade.