U.S. Stocks May Extend Lackluster Performance In Early Trading

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After ending the previous narrowly mixed, stocks may continue to turn in a lackluster performance in early trading on Friday. The major index futures are currently pointing to a roughly flat open for the markets, with the Dow futures down by just 19 points.

Traders may be reluctant to make significant moves ahead of the Federal Reserve's highly anticipated monetary policy meeting next week.

The Fed is widely expected to leave monetary policy unchanged but could address the outlook for its asset purchase program.

The minutes of the Fed's last meeting signaled the central bank was prepared to begin scaling back asset purchases by the end of the year.

With some recent disappointing economic data suggesting the Fed could push back its plans, traders are likely to pay close attention to the wording of the post-meeting statement.

Stocks may also see volatility as today represents a quadruple witching day, when stock options, single-stock futures, stock index futures and stock index options all expire on the same day.

Shortly after the start of trading, the University of Michigan is scheduled to release its preliminary report on consumer sentiment in the month of September. Economists expect the consumer sentiment index to rise to 72.2 in September after plunging to 70.3 in August.

Stocks fluctuated over the course of the trading session on Thursday before ending the day little changed. The major averages recovered from an early move to the downside but eventually finished the session on opposite sides of the unchanged line.

After tumbling by nearly 275 points in morning trading, the Dow closed down just 63.07 points or 0.2 percent at 34,751.32. The S&P 500 also dipped 6.95 points or 0.2 percent to 4,473.75, while the Nasdaq inched up 20.40 points or 0.1 percent to 15,181.92.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Friday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index climbed by 0.6 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index jumped by 1 percent.

Meanwhile, the major European markets are turning in a mixed performance on the day. While the German DAX Index has edged down by 0.1 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index are both up by 0.2 percent.

In commodities trading, crude oil futures are slipping $0.39 to $72.22 a barrel after coming in unchanged at $72.61 a barrel on Thursday. Meanwhile, after plunging $38.10 to $1,756.70 an ounce in the previous session, gold futures are inching up $3 to $1,759.70 an ounce.

On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 109.96 yen versus the 109.73 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Thursday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.1778 compared to yesterday's $1.1767.

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