Stocks: Waiting on the Fed

August 21, 2013: 8:09 AM ET
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NEW YORK (CNNMoney)

It might be another bumpy day for markets.

U.S. stock futures were lower ahead of the opening bell Wednesday as investors wait for the release of minutes from the U.S. Federal Reserve's latest monetary policy meeting.

The minutes are slated to come out at 2 p.m. ET and investors will be looking for clues as to when the central bank might begin cutting back on its massive bond-buying program.

David Jones, chief market strategist at IG in London, said that the Fed minutes -- and investor reaction -- should provide some hints about market direction in the weeks ahead.

But with markets now well into their traditional summer lull, Jones said it "would not be surprising to see this lack of conviction continue in the short term."

Related: Fear & Greed Index driven by FEAR

Investors will also look to a variety of corporate earnings reports coming out Wednesday.

Lowe's (LOW) stock rose in premarket trading after the home improvement retailer announced that its quarterly sales and profit rose from a year earlier.

Target (TGT) shares were also higher after the retailer announced significant year-over-year gains in sales and profit that beat expectations.

Staples (SPLS) dropped nearly 10% in premarket trading after the office supply retailer reported lower quarterly sales and profit compared to the prior year. The CEO blamed the declines on weakness in retail stores and said the company was working to ramp up its online sales.

Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) will report after the closing bell.

Shares in Heineken (HEINY) were off by nearly 5% in Europe after the brewer reported earnings that were worse than expected.

Related: India edges toward a crisis as rupee plunges

U.S. stocks ended mixed Tuesday as investors focused on earnings reports from several major retailers. This came after multiple days of market losses.

European markets were lower in morning trading. London's benchmark FTSE 100 index was down by roughly 0.7%.

Asian markets ended with mixed results. Stocks in Hong Kong declined by 0.7%, while the Shanghai Composite index was flat. Japan's Nikkei added 0.2%.

Stocks in India continued to slide. The Mumbai Sensex has fallen by roughly 7% over the past four trading sessions and the country's currency hit fresh lows versus the U.S. dollar this week. Policymakers have taken some steps to defend the rupee, but some analysts argue more must be done.

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