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August 15, 2013  Thu 7:00 AM CT

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U.S. stock futures are pointing to a lower open after disappointing quarterly results by two industry leaders.

Cisco and Wal-Mart are down about 7 percent and 3 percent respectively following their respective reports last night and this morning. Attention now turns to today's barrage of economic data, which includes initial jobless claims, consumer prices, and the Empire State manufacturing index, all scheduled for release at 8:30 a.m. ET.

Stock indexes are at an important juncture as traders consider whether to continue their bullish momentum of recent months or pull back amid uncertainty over a potential shift in the Federal Reserve's monetary policy. Today's economic data will be examined closely for clues about the future of quantitative easing, as will a speech by St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard at 8:15 a.m. ET. (See related story)

S&P 500 futures are down about 0.6 percent, while Nasdaq 100 contracts are lower by about 0.7 percent at the time of this writing. Both have been weakening throughout the morning, as have overseas indexes.

The U.K. FTSE is losing more than 1 percent, while Germany's DAX and France's CAC are falling about 0.5 percent. Japan's volatile Nikkei led Asia's losses with a 2 percent drop overnight as the Shanghai Composite dropped nearly 1 percent.

The U.S. dollar is down against other major currencies, including the euro and the Japanese yen. A rising yen, traditionally viewed as a "safe haven" asset, is usually bearish for equities.

Crude oil is up about 0.4 percent, while metals are mixed. Spot gold is flat while silver is showing a slight gain, but copper is down about 0.4 percent.

Metals and materials have been rising recently, and mining companies have been leading the way after being beaten down mercilessly all year. Gold and silver are back above their 50-day moving averages, while industrial metals have gotten a boost from recent positive economic data from China. Despite copper's decline today, it is still up sharply since late July.

The retail sector will also likely be in focus today after the weak reports from market leaders Wal-Mart this morning and Macy's yesterday. Traders will be focusing on technology as well to see if Cisco's numbers will counter the positive effects of Apple's resurgence in the sector.
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