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Morning Market Roundup: Congress Probes Tech Firms, Mideast Attacks Drive Oil Up, Wholesale Prices Up

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Here’s what you need to know as the markets open:

Congress: U.S. lawmakers on Thursday will question executives of two major Chinese technology companies as part of a congressional probe into whether those firms' ambitions to carve out a bigger niche in the American market pose a threat to national security.

The House Intelligence Committee is probing Huawei Technologies Ltd., which was founded by a former Chinese military engineer and has grown to become the world's second largest supplier of telecommunications network gear. Also under scrutiny is its rival ZTE Corp., which is partly state-owned and is the world's fourth largest mobile phone manufacturer.

Lawmakers fear the companies could pose an espionage risk. Those concerns have hampered Huawei and ZTE's expansion in the U.S., particularly beyond selling mobile devices to the provision of network infrastructure. They deny being a security threat.

The committee is expected to finalize its investigation in early October.

Wholesale Prices: A sharp rise in gasoline costs drove up wholesale prices last month by the most in more than three years.

The producer price index, which measures price changes before they reach the consumer, jumped 1.7 percent in August, the Labor Department said Thursday. The increase was mostly because gas prices soared 13.6 percent, the biggest gain in three years.

Food prices rose 0.9 percent, driven up by steep increases in the cost of eggs and dairy products.

Excluding the volatile food and gas categories, core wholesale prices rose only 0.2 percent, below July's increase.

In the past 12 months, wholesale prices have increased 2 percent, a mild gain and far below the recent peak of 7.1 percent in July 2011. Core wholesale prices have risen 2.5 percent in the past year, the same annual pace as in July.

Oil: Oil traded above $97 a barrel Thursday after attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions and the killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya sparked new worries about unrest in the Middle East.

By early afternoon in Europe, benchmark crude was up 25 cents at $97.26 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 16 cents Wednesday to end at $97.01 per barrel in New York.

In London, Brent crude was down 8 cents at $115.25 a barrel on the ICE Futures exchange.

U.S. Futures: Stock futures slid ahead of a Fed decision Thursday over the best course of action to revive the economy, with many believing that there may be too much optimism about bold action from policy makers.

The Federal Reserve will come to a decision just after noon, and Chairman Ben Bernanke is expected to speak at 2:15 p.m. Eastern.

Dow Jones industrial futures fell 21 points to 13,340. The broader S&P futures gave up 2.7 points to 1,436.80. Nasdaq futures slipped 7 points to 2,789.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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