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Stock futures higher after four sessions of sharp declines



(Reuters) – U.S. stock futures rose on Wednesday, indicating a slight respite after punishing few sessions that have pushed the S&P 500 near bear market territory on worries over slowing growth and the recent drama in the White House.

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the opening bell in New York, U.S., December 24, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

S&P 500 e-minis ESc1 were up 0.96 percent at 7:34 a.m. ET, reopening after the Christmas holiday. Dow e-minis 1YMc1 were up 0.94 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis NQc1 were up 0.95 percent.

A four-day slide saw the benchmark S&P 500 .SPX end Monday at a 20-month low and 19.8 percent below its closing high, just shy of the 20-percent threshold commonly used to define a bear market. The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI is off 18.9 percent from that level, while the Nasdaq .IXIC is pushing deeper into bear market with each day’s declines.

The partial shutdown of the U.S. federal government, one of the recent factors that has unnerved investors, entered the fifth day. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that the shutdown will last until his demand for funds to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border is met.

The political impasse over the border wall funds and the recent unceremonious departure of the U.S. defense chief have added to investor worries over U.S.-China trade tensions and other geopolitical events, crimping global growth and corporate profit.

Trump on Tuesday also reiterated that the U.S. Federal Reserve was raising interest rates too quickly, blaming the economic headwinds on the central bank.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday held a conference call with U.S. regulators to discuss plunging U.S. stock markets, which did little to soothe investor nerves.

“In addition to concerns towards the U.S. economy, the markets are now having to grapple with growing turmoil in the White House which has raised political risk ahead of the year-end,” said Masahiro Ichikawa, senior strategist at Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management.

The recent sell-off has pushed all the 11 major S&P sectors into losses for the year, and roughly three-fourths of the S&P 500 stocks are trading in bear market territory.

But with Wall Street’s decade-long bull run under threat, Trump sees an opportunity for investors. He said U.S. companies are “the greatest in the world” and a drop in stock prices presented a “tremendous” buying opportunity.

The S&P and the Dow have fallen about 12 percent for the year, while the Nasdaq has shed 10 percent, with four more trading sessions left to wrap up the year.

Reporting by Medha Singh in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Shinichi Saoshiro in Tokyo; Editing by Anil D’Silva