Stock futures dip ahead of fresh U.S.-China trade talks

February 19, 2019

By Shreyashi Sanyal

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures dipped on Tuesday, as investors started a holiday-shortened week on a cautious note ahead of a fresh round of trade talks between the United States and China.

Trade negotiations between the world’s two largest economies will resume in Washington later in the day and will be followed by higher-level talks on Thursday.

Hopes that the two countries will hammer out a deal to end their protracted trade war have sparked a rally in U.S. stocks, with the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq logging their best week in a month on Friday.

Both sides have said progress has been made, but few details have emerged from the talks so far.

Tariff-vulnerable industrial companies such as Boeing Co dropped 0.3 percent and Caterpillar Inc 0.1 percent in premarket trading.

The World Trade Organization said its quarterly outlook indicator of world merchandise trade slumped to its lowest reading in nine years, putting policymakers on guard for a sharper slowdown if trade tensions continue.

In a bright spot, shares of retailer Walmart Inc jumped 4.6 percent after reporting an estimate-beating jump in holiday quarter comparable sales, which grew for the 18th consecutive quarter.

Walmart’s results follow a shockingly weak report from the U.S. Commerce Department last week that showed U.S. retail sales recorded their biggest drop in more than nine years for December, stoking fears of an economic slowdown.

At 7:19 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 72 points, or 0.28 percent. S&P 500 e-minis were down 9 points, or 0.32 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 20.5 points, or 0.29 percent.

Advance Auto Parts Inc dropped 2.9 percent after the company reported quarterly revenue in line with Wall Street estimates.

Shares of weight management services provider Weight Watchers International Inc slid 5 percent after J.P. Morgan downgraded the stock.

With nearly 80 percent of S&P 500 companies having reported earnings reports so far, analysts now see a profit increase for the group of 16.2 percent for the fourth quarter, according to Refinitiv data.

However, the current quarter does not look all that upbeat, with earnings expected to fall by 0.5 percent, their first year-on-year decline since mid-2016.

(Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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