Wall Street set for muted open as trade uncertainty overhangs

(Reuters) – Wall Street was set to open flat on Thursday as uncertainty of trade talks between the United States and China offset optimism after Britain’s parliament voted to reject a disorderly Brexit.

FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 13, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Bloomberg reported that a meeting between President Donald Trump and China’s Xi Jinping to sign an agreement to end their trade dispute won’t occur this month and is more likely to happen in April at the earliest.

A day earlier, U.S. President Donald Trump said he was in no rush to complete a trade pact with China.

“The situation with trade is causing indigestion for investors early on. The deeper concern that is starting to creep up is that there is no sense of urgency at this point,” said Andre Bakhos, managing director at New Vines Capital LLC in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

Tariff-sensitive Caterpillar Inc fell 0.7 percent in premarket trade while chipmakers, which rely on China for a large portion of their revenue also lost ground.

Boeing, the single largest U.S. exporter to China, dipped 0.4 percent. The world’s largest planemaker had its own troubles this week after its money-spinning 737 MAX jetliners were grounded globally following a recent fatal crash in Ethiopia.

“We’ve had a strong run in markets this week and investors are taking a pause to digest the gains, and use the delay in trade talks as an excuse to take a break from buying,” Bakhos said.

The S&P and Nasdaq have posted three consecutive sessions of gains this week, buoyed by domestic data that underscored the Federal Reserve’s patient stance on future interest rate hikes.

A dovish Federal Reserve and hopes of a U.S.-China trade deal have helped the S&P rally about 12 percent this year and has put the benchmark index just 4.3 percent away from its September record closing high.

UK lawmakers on Wednesday voted in favor of a motion that ruled out a potentially disorderly “no-deal” Brexit under any circumstance, though another crucial vote to delay leaving the European Union is pending on Thursday evening.

Apple Inc rose 1 percent after brokerage Cowen and Co started coverage of the iPhone maker with “outperform” rating. Its shares kept Nasdaq futures afloat.

At 8:22 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 24 points, or 0.09 percent. S&P 500 e-minis were down 1.5 points, or 0.05 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 1.25 points, or 0.02 percent.

Among stocks, Facebook Inc fell 1.9 percent as the world’s largest social network struggled to restore its services fully after a 17-hour partial outage.

Johnson & Johnson dropped 1.8 percent after a California jury awarded $29 million to a woman who said that asbestos in the company’s talcum-powder-based products caused her cancer.

Economic data at 10:00 a.m. ET is expected show new home sales fell to 620,000 units in January, from 621,000 units in December.

Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

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