U.S. stocks were headed for a lower open Wednesday as investors remained on edge over developments in Europe.
Dow Jones industrial average futures were off 0.7%, while S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures were about 1% lower. Stock futures indicate the possible direction of the markets when they open at 9:30 a.m. ET.
The European Parliament is meeting to assess its next move, given recent changes in French and Greek leadership. Austerity measures have lost public support in both of those nations, as well as in Italy.
Several economic reports are on tap for Wednesday, including wholesale inventories. A handful of companies will report quarterly results, including AOL, News Corp, Cisco Systems and Priceline.com.
For the second day in a row, U.S. stocks took a sharp tumble in the first half of the day Tuesday, but pared losses by the closing bell. The market's choppiness continues as investors worry about uncertainty in Greece's political landscape, which could impact eurozone austerity agreements.
World markets: European stocks fell in afternoon trading. Britain's FTSE 100 slid 1.2% and France's CAC 40 shed 1%, while the DAX in Germany was off 0.6%.
Asian markets ended lower. The Shanghai Composite dropped 1.6%, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong slipped 0.7%, and Japan's Nikkei fell 1.5%.
Economy: The Commerce Department's figures for March wholesale inventories are due at 10 a.m. ET. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com expect inventories to have climbed 0.6%.
A weekly report on crude oil inventories will be released at 10:30 a.m. ET. Oil continued to drop Tuesday on concerns about Europe and the global economy. Prices for U.S. crude have declined more than 9% over the past six days.
Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker will testify before a Senate Banking subcommittee on limiting federal support for financial institutions.
Companies: Drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline announced Wednesday it is taking its previous announced unsolicited $13 a share offer for Human Genome Sciences directly to shareholders in a hostile bid. Shares of GlaxoSmithKline were down 1.5% in premarket trading.
Shares of Human Genome have more than doubled since GlaxoSmithKline's April 18 offer, and are now trading above the $13 offer price. Its shares were down 0.2% to $14.59 in premarket trading Wednesday.
Shares of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters were off 3.3% in premarket trading after the company announced late Tuesday that founder and former CEO Robert Stiller had been stripped of his title as chairman for selling more than $125 million worth of Green Mountain stock earlier this week in a margin call. The sale was in violation of company policy on insider trading following certain events such as earnings reports. A disappointing earnings report a week ago sent shares of Green Mountain down nearly 50%, prompting Stiller's margin call.
Shares of AOL were down 0.5% in premarket trading. The Web portal posted earnings of 22 cents a share, far better than the consensus forecast of 7 cents a share of analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters, and topping even the most bullish forecasts.
Shares of Walt Disney hit an all-time high in after-hours trading Tuesday after the media company reported strong earnings growth. Shares of the Dow component were up 0.9% in premarket trading.
After the close Wednesday, News Corp., under siege for a phone hacking scandal in Britain, is expected to post earnings of 31 cents per share on revenue of $8.2 billion.
Analysts predict network equipment maker Cisco Systems will post earnings of 47 cents a share on $11.5 billion in revenue, while travel website Priceline.com is forecast to report earnings per share of $3.95 on $1 billion in revenue.
Currencies and commodities: The dollar rose against the euro and British pound, but fell against the Japanese yen.
Oil for June delivery fell 71 cents to $96.30 a barrel.
Gold futures for June delivery tumbled $17.10 to $1,587.40 an ounce.
Bonds: The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury rose slightly, but left the yield little changed from the 1.84% level reached late Tuesday.