Stock futures drop as trade tensions spark recession fears, flight to safety

June 3, 2019

By Medha Singh and Amy Caren Daniel

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures fell on Monday, signaling Wall Street’s main indexes would extend last month’s losses at the open, as the multi-front trade war made investors increasingly risk averse and fueled worries of a recession.

May kicked off with a sharp escalation in U.S.-China trade tensions as the two sides imposed tit-for-tat tariffs and the month ended with the United States threatening to levy duties on all Mexican imports unless it curbs illegal immigration, adding to global growth worries.

Wall Street’s three main indexes lost at least 6% last month, their first negative monthly performance this year. The S&P 500 is now 7.3% off its record high hit on May 1.

Investors’ flight to the security of government bonds and other safer bets continued on Monday as the war of words between the world’s two largest economies ramped up over the weekend.

This pushed yields on U.S. two-year notes toward their biggest two-day fall since the start of the global financial crisis in 2008, reflecting growing conviction that the Federal Reserve will start cutting interest rates to stave off recession.

Yields on 10-year notes have been firmly below those on three-month notes, an inversion that is now at its deepest since 2007. The inversion of the yield curve is seen as a warning of recession.

Shares of Wall Street’s big lenders – JPMorgan Chase & Co, Bank of America Corp and Morgan Stanley – were down between 0.3% and 1.3%.

Boeing Co, the largest U.S. exporter to China, dropped 0.8% in premarket trade.

Factory activity contracted in most Asian countries and the euro zone last month, the latest evidence of the fallout of the U.S.-China trade war.

In the United States, the ISM manufacturing activity survey, due at 10:00 a.m. ET, is likely to show the reading on the index rose to 53 in May from 52.8 a month earlier.

At 7:17 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 78 points, or 0.31%. S&P 500 e-minis were down 9 points, or 0.33% and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 39.5 points, or 0.55%.

Among stocks, FedEx Corp shares dropped 3.0% after Chinese media reported that Beijing would investigate whether FedEx damaged the legal rights and interests of its clients, after telecoms giant Huawei said parcels intended for it were diverted.

Alphabet Inc dropped 3.1% after sources said the U.S. Justice Department is preparing an investigation of the Google-parent to determine whether the company broke antitrust laws in operating its sprawling online businesses.

Shares of health insurer Centene Corp slipped 6.8% after bigger rival Humana Inc said it would not make a proposal to combine with the company.

Cypress Semiconductor Corp surged 25.1% after German chipmaker Infineon Technologies agreed to buy the U.S. peer in a deal valued at 9 billion euros ($10.1 billion), including debt.

(Reporting by Medha Singh and Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

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