Futures pare losses after U.S. GDP data

(Reuters) – U.S. stock futures were slightly lower on Friday, cutting earlier losses after encouraging economic data, but were still pressured by worries over slowing global growth and the threat of a U.S. government shutdown.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., December 21, 2018. REUTERS/Bryan R Smith

Third-quarter economic growth was revised lower, but the pace was likely strong enough to keep growth on track to hit the Trump administration’s 3 percent target this year.

Growth estimates for the fourth quarter are expected to be 2.9 percent, indicating a slowdown amid a widening trade deficit, sluggish business spending on equipment and a weak housing market.

This follows the Federal Reserve’s plan to keep raising interest rates on Wednesday, which was an added headache for investors already fearful that trade wars and other geopolitical concerns would grind economic and corporate growth to a halt.

Now all eyes will be on the November consumer spending, which is expected to have slowed from the month before. But the data, due at 10 a.m. ET, is also expected to show that the core PCE index, the Fed’s preferred inflation measure, edged higher.

Sentiment was weak earlier as investors also fretted over political turmoil in Washington.

There is a chance that the government could be shut down unless President Donald Trump and Congress cut a funding deal, while adding to the air of crisis was the abrupt resignation of U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis after falling out with Trump over his foreign policies.

Volatility may rise again on Friday on account of “quadruple witching”, as investors unwind interests in futures and options contracts prior to expiration.

“Fears of a government shutdown, Mattis resigning, all those things I think are weighing on the sentiment. The attitude was already pretty bad and they (news from Washington) are certainly not helping,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St. Petersburg, Florida.

One silver lining was Nike Inc, whose shares jumped 9.1 percent in premarket trading after the company’s quarterly results beat Wall Street estimates on strength in North America.

At 9:07 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 18 points, or 0.08 percent. S&P 500 e-minis were up 0.75 points, or 0.03 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 10.75 points, or 0.17 percent.

The three main Wall Street indexes are already in correction territory, having fallen more than 10 percent from their record closing highs, and are closing in on bear market territory, when a security closes 20 percent below a recent high.

While the Nasdaq came within a whisker of bear market territory on Thursday, other segments of the market, including the Russell 2000 small-cap benchmark and the Dow Jones Transport Average are already in bear market territory.

Reporting by Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

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