US futures slide; Asia stocks set for mixed open

Pedestrians wait to cross a road in front of an electronic stock board outside a securities firm in Tokyo. (Bloomberg pic)

US equity futures declined in early Asian trading, signalling the resumption of selling pressure after the closure of US equity and bond markets Wednesday.

Stocks in Asia were poised for a mixed open as investors weighed the outlook for trade talks and growth.

Futures had signalled a flat start to equity trading in Japan and Hong Kong before the dive in contracts on the S&P 500 Index. Australian shares posted modest losses at the open.

European equities were weaker overnight. The Canadian dollar sank as the Bank of Canada walked back some of its enthusiasm about the economic outlook.

The pound edged higher as investors digested legal advice over Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal, which confirmed that the so-called customs backstop – the insurance mechanism that kicks in if the Irish border issue cannot be resolved – could remain “indefinitely.”

Investors are looking for progress on trade as well as clues to the future path of economic growth.

US President Donald Trump said China is sending “very strong signals” following trade discussions in Argentina, as uncertainty remains over what commitments were made between the two nations.

The Federal Reserve’s Beige Book economic report showed fading optimism over prospects for growth at US firms even as a majority of districts continued to report a modest expansion in recent weeks.

“I’m not overly concerned,” Kathryn Rooney Vera, Bulltick LLC head of research and chief investment strategy, told Bloomberg TV. “If in fact we do get a melting of tensions, actual action, and an improvement on the trade relationship between the US and China – I would contend we’re actually seeing that right now – then optimism can certainly bounce back.”

Elsewhere, West Texas oil prices slid back below US$53 (RM220) a barrel as traders await this week’s critical Opec gathering.

Bitcoin extended losses, dropping below US$3,800.