Stock Futures Rise After Alcoa Surprise
European Union and Spanish officials have been trying to calm the markets by insisting that Spain's economy will not be brought to its knees with the phase-in of austerity measures and won't be next in line to seek money from the strained eurozone bailout fund.
"We have a government in Spain that has taken very strong deficit measures," Benoit Coeure, a European Central Bank executive board member said in a speech in Paris, according to Bloomberg. "All this takes time. The political will is enormous. This is what leads me to say the market conditions are not justified."
"Will the ECB intervene? We have an instrument, the securities markets program, which hasn't been used recently but still exists."
Elsewhere, Japan's Nikkei Average finished lower by 0.8% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell 1.1%.
A tsunami watch was issued Wednesday across the Indian Ocean region after an earthquake, initially measured at 8.9, struck under the sea off the Indonesian province of Aceh. The earthquake quake was felt as far away as Singapore, Thailand, Bangladesh, Malaysia and India, according to reports.
In domestic news, the Commerce Department said that import price rose 1.3% in March, more than expected, compared with a downwardly-revised decline of 0.1% in February as fuel and industrial material costs rose.
Import prices excluding the fuel component climbed 0.5%. Export prices also increased more than expected, up 0.8%, compared to a gain of 0.4% in February. The rise in both import and export prices were the largest since 2011.
The release of the Fed's Beige Book on recent economic conditions occurs at 2 p.m.
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In other corporate news, Travelzoo(TZOO) , a publisher of travel newsletters and Web sites, is planning to sell itself, three people familiar with the matter told Reuters.