August 22, 2018 / 12:07 PM / 10 months ago

US STOCKS-Futures dip on Trump legal woes, caution ahead of trade talks

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* Futures dip: Dow 0.06 pct, S&P 0.11 pct, Nasdaq flat

By Shreyashi Sanyal

Aug 22 (Reuters) - U.S. stock futures dipped slightly on Wednesday as President Donald Trump’s political position was threatened by the criminal convictions of two former advisers and on caution ahead of U.S.-China trade talks.

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was found guilty on tax and bank fraud charges on Tuesday evening followed by Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleading guilty to a range of charges.

Cohen testified that Trump directed him to commit a crime – by arranging hush payments ahead of the 2016 election for two women who said they had affairs with Trump – which could hurt his Republican Party’s election prospects and widen a criminal probe that has overshadowed his presidency.

“Trump has weathered quite a few allegations before this, where many people were quick with the ‘I’ word (impeachment), so we need to see whether this could open a new chapter, or if it will calm down again and markets move on,” Commerzbank rates strategist Christoph Rieger said.

Apart from political headlines, focus will also be on the upcoming trade talks, the minutes from the Federal Reserve’s last meeting and earnings reports from a host of U.S. retailers. Trump has already said he does not expect any real progress during the trade talks.

The benchmark S&P 500 is on the cusp of notching the longest-ever bull-market run, which comes a day after the index hit an all-time intraday high.

Stock futures opened lower late on Tuesday after news on Cohen and Manafort, but have gained ground since.

At 7:31 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 16 points, or 0.06 percent. S&P 500 e-minis were down 3.25 points, or 0.11 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 0.25 points.

The minutes of the Fed’s August policy meeting is expected to reaffirm the central bank’s confidence in the U.S. economy and its commitment to future rate hikes. The report is due at 2:00 p.m. ET (1800 GMT).

Trump has been critical about higher interest rates and has asked the Fed to do more to help him boost the economy.

Among stocks, shares of Target rose 5.1 percent in premarket trading after the retailer posted quarterly same-store sales above analysts’ estimates and raised its full-year profit forecast.

Lowe’s dropped 2.6 percent after the home improvement retailer missed analysts’ estimates for quarterly same-store sales and trimmed its full-year profit and sales forecast. (Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Helen Reid)

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