US stocks were set to open little changed on Wednesday as selling pressure abated following stocks' worst day since June as the United States and its allies appeared ready to strike Syria after an alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians.
Wall Street has fallen for two days on Syrian concerns, following US Secretary of State John Kerry's remark late Monday that Syria's use of chemical weapons was "undeniable."
Investors worry about rapidly rising energy costs as a result of the impending conflict and their impact on the consumer, and that progress in efforts to rein in the US deficit may begin to reverse, said Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.
"The market has reset to a lower level to reflect that," Meckler said.
"The expectation is (a move on Syria) will be contained but only the actual action and reaction will determine that.
The biggest fear here is a much wider conflict." The United Nations Security Council was set for a showdown on Wednesday after Britain sought authorization for Western military action against Syria that seems certain to be vetoed by Russia and probably China.
Energy shares could be in focus as Brent crude hit a six-month high and U.S. crude hit its highest in more than two years on concerns the conflict may further destabilize the Middle East.
Gold prices rose to 3-1/2 month highs above $1,430 an ounce as the Syria tensions raised its appeal as a safe-haven asset.
S&P 500 futures rose 1 point and were slightly above fair value, a formula that evaluates pricing by taking into account interest rates, dividends and time to expiration on the contract.
Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 14 points, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 3 points. The S&P 500 index has fallen 2% in the past two days and the CBOE Volatility Index has risen 20%, reflecting investor uncertainty.
U.S. government housing finance authorities are pressing JPMorgan Chase & Co for at least $6 billion to settle lawsuits over bonds backed by subprime mortgages, according to a person familiar with the matter. Shares of mining equipment manufacturer Joy Global fell 5.9% in premarket trading after it reported a lower profit for the third quarter and said orders fell.
Zale Corp shares jumped 11.8% in premarket trading after it reported higher-than-expected fourth-quarter comparable sales and its first profitable fiscal year since 2008.
The National Association of Realtors issues Pending Home Sales data for July at 10:00 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT).
Economists in a Reuters survey expect a 0.5% drop compared with a 0.4% decrease in June.