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Stock Futures Decline as Geopolitical Risks Escalate

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- U.S. stock futures were taking a hit Monday as geopolitical concerns eroded risk appetite.

The U.S. and Iran were expected to begin talks this week on how they can help counter the growing threat of the insurgency threat in Iraq, The Wall Street Journal reported. The newspaper reported that radical Sunni militia bragged on Sunday that it had executed hundreds of Shiite Iraqi soldiers. Meanwhile, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS, has reportedly seized control over the town of Tal Afar in northwest Iraq.

In Ukraine, in one of the deadliest events in the country's escalating crisis, a Ukrainian military plane was shot down by pro-Russian separatists over the weekend, killing all 49 people on board.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were slipping 48 points, or 43.74 points below fair value, to 16,649. S&P 500 futures were down 5 points, or 4.41 points below fair value, to 1,923.25. Nasdaq futures were behind by 8.7 points, or 6.36 points below fair value, to 3,760.3.

Piper Jaffray technical analyst Craig Johnson wrote that looking at the impact of all historical Middle Eastern conflicts since 1970 shows the S&P 500 tends to trade modestly lower at the beginning of these conflicts, but losses ahead of the conflict are typically quickly recaptured and the SPX is generally higher three months later.

The Federal Open Market Committee meeting kicks off on Tuesday, with a rates announcement expected on Wednesday. Officials are widely expected to continue the current pace of tapering to their asset purchases by $10 billion a month. There will also be more scrutiny on the timing and language of the committee's first rate hike plans.

The economic calendar in the U.S. on Monday includes the Empire State Manufacturing Index for June at 8:30 a.m. EDT, industrial production and capacity utilization for May at 9:15 a.m., and the NAHB Housing Market Index for June at 10 a.m.

Companies making the headlines Monday include Medtronic (MDT - Get Report), Covidien (COV), Williams Cos. (WMB), Access Midstream Partners (ACMP) and General Electric (GE). Williams Cos., the pipeline operator, reached an agreement to acquire control of Access Midstream Partners for $5.99 billion. Germany's Siemens (SI) and Japan's Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Hitachi were preparing a joint offer for Alstom's energy business in a challenge to General Electric, according to a Bloomberg report Sunday. Medtronic, the U.S. medical device manufacturer, agreed to buy Ireland-based competitor Covidien for $42.9 billion in cash and stock.

Markets rose on Friday but not enough to erase losses sustained over the previous two days. The escalating situation in Iraq hung heavy in investors' minds and so-so U.S. economic data kept Wall Street cautious. The three indices finished the week lower, the first weekly decline in three weeks.

-- By Andrea Tse in New York

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