Futures dip as growth worries linger; Fed in focus

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures started the week cautiously on Monday, after skidding at the end of last week, as edgy investors waited for the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy guidance and its implications of slowing global growth.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., December 14, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The Fed is expected to raise interest rates at the end of its two-day meeting on Wednesday, but investors are hoping for signs the central bank may ease up on rate hikes next year and spark a Santa Claus rally.

U.S. stocks are having their worst December performance in 16 years, weighed down by concerns ranging from trade talks to interest rates and a flattening treasury yield curve to uncertainty over the shape of Brexit.

The S&P 500 is down 5.8 percent so far this month and the Dow Jones Industrial Average is now more than 10 percent lower than its recent record closing high, joining the S&P and Nasdaq in what is known as correction territory.

But while some investors hope the Fed can help spark a year-end rally, others are not as sure.

“Heading into the festive period, trading volumes are expected to be significantly lower which could make things a lot more interesting as it’s unlikely to be the uneventful end to the year that we often see,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda in London.

“The Fed decision on Wednesday is another event that could shake things up in the markets.”

The trade truce between the United States and China and subsequent concessions by Beijing — such as buying more U.S. soybeans and oil as well as lowering tariffs on American-made cars — have also failed to spark the market.

Trade experts and people familiar with Sino-U.S. negotiations say Beijing needs to do far more to meet U.S. demands for long-term change in how China does business.

Amid a slowing economy, President Xi Jinping will give a speech on Tuesday to mark the 40th anniversary of China’s reforms and Beijing is expected to discuss key growth targets and policy goals for 2019 later in the week.

At 7:22 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 40 points, or 0.17 percent. S&P 500 e-minis were down 3.25 points, or 0.12 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 8.5 points, or 0.13 percent.

Johnson & Johnson’s shares were off 0.2 percent in premarket trading, extending its fall from Friday when Reuters reported the company knew for decades that its Baby Powder contained asbestos.

PG&E Corp dropped 3.9 percent after California regulators opened a case against the utility for falsifying pipeline safety records.

Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

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