Stocks set for tepid start

By staff

NEW YORK( -- U.S. stocks were set for a flat open Wednesday, as investors prepared to tiptoe back into the market after the previous session's losses.

The Dow Jones industrial average, Nasdaq-100 and S&P-500 futures were close to the breakeven point.

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Futures measure current index values against their perceived future performance and offer an indication of how markets may open when trading begins.

U.S. stocks fell on Tuesday, as worries about the strength of fourth-quarter earnings weighed on sentiment.

"We have financial markets that have been roiling and bubbling, but we have the real fundamentals coming to light this quarter that are showing a different story," said Derek Hoffman, chief executive and founder of Wall St. Cheat Sheet in North Carolina.

He said that recent events in China -- where the government could be raising interest rates "sooner than expected" and where Google might be pulling out -- have also rattled investors.

"If Google's engines aren't roiling forward, the markets aren't moving forward, as well," said Hoffman.

The markets are also haunted by the specter of fees that may be imposed on the country's biggest financial institutions, as the government attempts to recoup losses from the Troubled Asset Relief Program. President Obama is expected to announce more on this plan Thursday.

Economy: Investors will look to the Federal Reserve's Beige Book on economic conditions, which comes out at 2 p.m. ET. The Treasury budget is also due out at that time.

Banks: A commission appointed by Congress to investigate the financial crisis will question the chief executives of Goldman Sachs (GS, Fortune 500), Morgan Stanley (MS, Fortune 500), J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500) and Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500) on Wednesday. Panel chairman Philip Angelides said he wants to learn how banks were considered "too big to fail" leading up to the 2008 financial collapse.

Companies: Stocks to watch include Google (GOOG, Fortune 500). On Tuesday the search giant threatened to shut down its China operations, citing censorship rules and cyber attacks. Google said that it was one of at least 20 companies that had been victimized by a "highly sophisticated and targeted attack" originating in China in December to gain access of e-mail accounts of human rights activists.

World markets: Asian stocks tumbled, with Japan's Nikkei shedding about 1.3%. Major European indexes were mixed in midday trading.

Money and oil: The dollar fell against most of the major international currencies, except for the yen.

The price of oil slipped 74 cents a barrel to $80.05.

The price of gold rose $6.80 an ounce to $1,136.20.

As for Treasurys, the price of the 10-year note fell, raising the yield to 3.74%. To top of page

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Ford Motor Co 8.29 0.05 0.61%
Advanced Micro Devic... 54.59 0.70 1.30%
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