By Steve Goldstein, MarketWatch
LONDON (MarketWatch) -- U.S. stock futures held steady Wednesday with traders unwilling to commit before testimony from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
S&P 500 futures fell a tenth of a point to 1,097.10 while Nasdaq 100 futures rose 3.75 points to 1,804.70. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 5 points.
U.S. stocks dropped sharply Tuesday after data showing a slide in U.S. consumer confidence as well as a dip in German business confidence. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 101 points, the S&P 500 dropped 13 points and the Nasdaq Composite lost 29 points.
U.S. Banks in Transition: Reforming and Recovering
Jayan Dhru, Standard & Poor's global head of Financial Services Ratings, says U.S. banks are still in recovery mode as they manage the credit cycle while reducing leverage and risk. Reforming the banking sector will have unintended consequences on the broader economy.
Wednesday's spotlight will be on Washington as Bernanke appears before the House Financial Services Committee at 10 a.m. Eastern time. Though the Fed chairman has insisted that the economy still needs "accommodative monetary policies," last week's increase on discount window loans has raised concerns that the central bank may tighten earlier than some in the market had anticipated.
Jan Hatzius of Goldman Sachs said in a note to clients the Q&A session will be of importance, and wants to know why the Fed expects underlying inflation to stop falling, why it's so reluctant to provide additional monetary stimulus and what indicators the central bank uses to determine if inflation expectations are still "low and stable."
Also at 10 a.m. Eastern time, data on new home sales for January will be released, while Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor /quotes/comstock/13*!tm/quotes/nls/tm (TM 71.55, -1.38, -1.89%) , will face questions on the safety of Toyota cars after a massive recall.TODAY'S INTERNATIONAL MARKET STORIES
Global Dowâ¢ MarketWatch Topics: Greece â¢ Asia Markets | Europe Markets | LatAm Markets â¢ Canadian Markets | Israel Stocks | London â¢ U.S.: Market Snapshot | After Hours /conga/story/misc/international.html 53366
Google /quotes/comstock/15*!goog/quotes/nls/goog (GOOG 535.07, -7.73, -1.42%) will also be in the spotlight as the European Union's antitrust enforcers are examining how the search giant deals with advertising partners, while three executives were separately convicted of privacy violations in Italy.
Toll Brothers /quotes/comstock/13*!tol/quotes/nls/tol (TOL 18.90, -0.49, -2.53%) , the luxury-home builder, reported a narrowing loss as the company's CEO, Robert Toll, said the housing market is in "choppy waters but the seas are getting calmer." Toll shares climbed 8.5% in premarket trade.
Europe stocks were wavering between gains and losses, and Asian stocks were particularly hard hit after Tuesday's big drop on Wall Street, with the Nikkei 225 retreating 1.5% in Tokyo.
The ISE National 100 fell 2% in Istanbul amid tension in that country as 40 were arrested over an alleged coup.
Oil futures were holding below $79 a barrel, while gold futures fell over $8 an ounce.
The euro /quotes/comstock/21o!x:seurusd (CUR_EURUSD 1.35, +0.00, +0.24%) recovered somewhat, up 0.3% to $1.3552, after an unexpected rise in industrial orders in the euro zone during December.
Steve Goldstein is MarketWatch's London bureau chief.