US stock futures near flat ahead of economic data

NEW YORK (AP) ? Wall Street futures wavered between small gains and losses Tuesday amid uncertainty over what authorities in the U.S., China and Europe might do to help the slowing world economy.

Dow Jones industrial futures were up 12 points to 13,091 as U.S. stocks return from the Labor Day weekend. The broader S&P 500 futures rose less than a point to 1,405.50. Nasdaq futures edged up 1.25 points to 2,772.25.

The subdued futures come ahead of reports on August manufacturing activity and July construction spending. Both reports are due out at 10 a.m. Eastern time.

In Europe, Moody’s warned that it could downgrade the credit rating of the European Union as a whole, citing the mounting strain of the continent’s debt crisis. That sent European markets mostly lower.

The focus this week will be on the European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, who is expected to announce details on Thursday of a new bond-buying program intended to bring down the borrowing costs of countries such as Spain and Italy.

The plan is a crucial step to easing the crisis, which is increasingly hurting the continent’s economy.

The Moody’s warning helped push European stocks lower. Britain’s FTSE 100 was down 0.8 percent at 5,714.15 while Germany’s DAX was 0.3 percent lower at 6,993.32. France’s CAC 40 lost 0.4 percent to 3,438.51.

Spooking investors in Asia were signs that China’s central bank is resisting calls for more aggressive measures to boost the economy based on past experience: the huge stimulus enacted in response to the 2008 global crisis fueled inflation and a wasteful spending boom.

The week will culminate in Friday’s U.S. nonfarm payrolls figures, a key indicator of the health of the world’s biggest economy. Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke has indicated that the central bank is inclined to provide new stimulus to the economy, so a weak number could ? counter-intuitively ? cement those expectations and push markets higher.

Earlier, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index fell 0.1 percent to close at 8,775.51. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 0.7 percent to 19,429.91 and South Korea’s Kospi shed 0.3 percent to 1,907.13. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.6 percent to 4,303.50.

Mainland China’s Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.8 percent to 2,043.65 while the smaller Shenzhen Composite Index lost 0.9 percent at 846.88.

In commodities markets, the benchmark oil contract for October delivery was up 67 cents to $97.14 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose $1.85 to finish at $96.47 Friday.