Stocks stuck in red as taper talk returns

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Global stock markets and U.S. futures were in the red Wednesday amid new talk that the Federal Reserve may soon begin easing its stimulus measures.

U.S. stock futures were roughly 0.5% weaker ahead of the open, with negative market sentiment blamed on hawkish statements from Chicago Fed president Charles Evans and Atlanta Fed president Dennis Lockhart.

"Both indicated the Fed could initiate tapering [to its bond-buying program] as early as September," said Ishaq Siddiqi, a market strategist at ETX Capital in London.

The prospect of the Fed cutting back on its massive quantitative easing campaign, which has helped push U.S. stocks to record highs, had investors feeling "uneasy," Siddiqi said.

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The move downward gathered pace Tuesday as U.S. stocks finished lower, with the Dow Jones industrial average experiencing its largest point and percentage drop since June. Asian markets took up the trend Wednesday -- Japan's Nikkei index declined by 4% as the yen continued to strengthen. The main indexes in China also dropped.

European markets were lower in morning trading. The Bank of England said it wouldn't raise interest rates until British unemployment falls to 7%, which is unlikely to happen for three years.

Despite the move lower, U.S. stocks have still gained 18% to 21% so far this year.

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Earnings continue to roll in Wednesday. CNNMoney parent Time Warner (TWX) raised its guidance and reported a 25% jump in operating income, helped by strong revenue from movie blockbusters like "Man of Steel" and television shows like HBO's "Game of Thrones" and "Girls

AOL (AOL) reported earnings and sales that beat estimates, and announced plans to acquire for $405 million.

First Solar (FSLR)shares plunged in premarket trading, a day after the solar panel maker widely misses analysts' estimates on both profit and revenue. First Solar also trimmed its outlook.

Tesla Motors (TSLA) and Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (GMCR) are due after the close.

On the economic front, the U.S. Federal Reserve will release its monthly report on consumer credit at 3 p.m. ET.

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