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Wall Street set for muted open on simmering U.S.-China tensions

(Reuters) – U.S. stock indexes were set for a near-flat open on Friday as investors weighed hopes of more stimulus to revive an ailing economy against simmering Sino-U.S. trade tensions.

China on Friday unveiled details about its plan to impose a national security law in Hong Kong that could see mainland intelligence agencies set up bases in the global financial hub, raising fears of more pro-democracy protests.

Reports of the law on Thursday had drawn fire from President Donald Trump, toppling Wall Street’s main indexes from multi-month highs that were hit on optimism around a revival in business activity with the easing of coronavirus-led lockdowns.

“Market sentiment is really vulnerable to expensive valuation at the moment,” said Andrea Cicione, head of strategy at TS Lombard.

“After the shock of the COVID-19 lockdown, we have to go through a regular recession with high unemployment, low capex, low demand and that’s not what’s priced in at the moment.”

At 8:37 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 21 points, or 0.09%. S&P 500 e-minis were up 2.5 points, or 0.09% and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 9 points, or 0.1%.

A swathe of mixed retail earnings from Walmart Inc, Best Buy Co Inc and Home Depot Inc earlier in the week had shown online shopping gaining traction due to the stay-at-home orders.

On Friday, Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba Group reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit, but its shares slipped 1.6%. Smaller rival Pinduoduo Inc’s U.S.-listed shares gained 1.2% after its own upbeat quarterly earnings report.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise fell 7.3% after missing second-quarter revenue and profit estimates, hit by global lockdowns since February.

Data analytics software maker Splunk Inc rose 5.8% after saying it expects higher demand for its cloud services as people around the world take to working from home.

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