NEW YORK — U.S. stock futures were little changed Wednesday after companies offered a mixed picture of how the economy will affect their profits.
Companies are still reporting stronger earnings: Those in the Standard & Poor's 500 index are on pace to top profits from the previous year for the ninth straight quarter. But economic growth is weak around the world, and some economists worry that a second recession may be coming.
Computer maker Dell Inc. said late Tuesday its profit rose 63 percent last quarter after businesses and government agencies bought more machines. But it also cut its forecast for annual revenue growth because of a shakier demand outlook. It now expects growth of only up to 5 percent, down from its earlier forecast for up to 9 percent. Dell fell 7 percent in premarket trading.
Other companies are more optimistic. Office products retailer Staples Inc. raised its profit forecast for the year after saying strong international sales pushed earnings up 36 percent last quarter. Staples shares rose 8.9 percent in premarket trading.
Retailer Target Corp. gave a profit forecast for this year that was above Wall Street's expectations after reporting a 3.7 percent rise in earnings last quarter. Its stock rose 5.8 percent in premarket trading.
Deere & Co also raised its forecast for full-year earnings. It now expects to earn $2.7 billion this fiscal year, up from a May forecast of $2.65 billion. The maker of tractors and other equipment said its profit rose 15 percent last quarter on strong demand for farm equipment. Deere fell 1.9 percent in premarket trading.
Companies have been under pressure not only on the revenue side but also on costs. Higher food prices helped push inflation at the wholesale level to 0.2 percent in July, according to a government report Wednesday. But that is still well below inflation levels earlier this year when oil prices were spiking because of violence in the Middle East. In February, wholesale inflation was 1.4 percent.
Stocks have been particularly volatile in August. Worries rose as the U.S. government said it may default on its debt unless it was allowed to borrow more. The government just beat the deadline to avoid a default, but Standard & Poor's was turned off by the partisanship in the debate.
S&P downgraded the U.S. credit rating on Aug. 5 by one notch to AA+ from the top AAA rating. That triggered one of Wall Street's wildest weeks: The Dow rose or fell by at least 400 points in each of the first four days of last week, the first time that has happened.
Markets appear to have calmed somewhat since then. Monday marked the first time since the Aug. 5 downgrade that the Dow rose or fell by less than 100 points. It fell 76 points after being down as many as 190 points earlier in the day. The Vix index, which measures investor fear, ended Monday 32 percent below where it was on the first trading day after the S&P downgrade. It, though, is still 30 percent above where it ended July.
About an hour ahead of the opening of trading, Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 29 points, or 0.3 percent, to 11,416. S&P 500 index futures rose 3.70, or 0.3 percent, to 1,196. Nasdaq 100 futures fell 1.50, or 0.1 percent, to 2,197.50. Stock futures don't always accurately predict how markets will open.