Stock futures point to flat open after rally

Stock index futures pointed to a Wednesday open that will be little changed following a sharp rally in the previous session.

In a sign volatility was still the market’s biggest constant, futures climbed back from early weakness after data showed durable goods orders were much stronger than expected.

New orders for long-lasting U.S. manufactured goods rose 4 percent in July on strong demand for aircraft and motor vehicles, twice what the forecast.

The news provided a diversion to investors, fixed on hopes that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke would announce new stimulus for a struggling U.S. economy in a speech in Friday.

A Washington Post article grabbed market attention overnight, playing down the likelihood Bernanke would disclose big plans to boost the economy in his speech at a central bank conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, that starts Thursday. Hopes for such a plan fueled a 3 percent rally in Tuesday’s session.

“The data gives us a leg up going into Bernanke’s speech and moderates some of the negative feeling that has been around,” said Roger Volz, director of cash equities at BGC Financial in New York.

“Traders are looking for good news to lift off on, but whether we get overextended remains to be seen. Traders are double- and triple-guessing the outcome of the Fed meeting, and there could be profit-taking if there’s too much of a rally.”

Concerns about the economy’s weakness and the euro zone’s sovereign debt crisis have sparked sharp volatility in the past two weeks, and the magnitude of Tuesday’s rally echoed the steep moves.

S&P 500 futures fell 1.8 points and were below 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 fell 14 points and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 1.5 points.