Here are five things you must know for Tuesday, Feb. 19:
1. -- Stocks Lower as Next Round of Trade Talks Begins
U.S. stock futures declined slightly on Tuesday, Feb. 19, and global stocks were mixed as investors looked to a key round of trade talks between the U.S. and China in Washington for any clues as to whether the two sides can reach an agreement in the final two weeks before a self-imposed deadline would trigger fresh tariffs between the world's two biggest economies.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer will lead this week's negotiations, which begin Tuesday, with China's Vice Premier Liu He expected to visit the U.S. capital Thursday and Friday following a successful round of talks last week in Beijing. Should the March 2 deadline pass without a deal, the U.S. is set to lift tariffs on $200 billion worth of China-made goods to 25% from 10%, while China has vowed to react in kind.
Donald Trump, however, has hinted that he may extend the talks in order to address the myriad issues that still separate the two countries.
"We're making a lot of progress," Trump told his supporters during a rally in Florida on Monday. "Nobody expected this was going to be happening."
Contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 88 points, futures for the S&P 500 were down 8.75 points, and Nasdaq futures slipped 19.25 points.
Stock markets in the U.S. were closed Monday for Presidents Day.
The economic calendar in the U.S. Monday includes the National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index for February at 10 a.m. ET.
2. -- Walmart Leads Tuesday's Earnings Calendar
Walmart Inc. (WMT) posted adjusted earnings in its fourth quarter of $1.41 a share, beating analysts' forecasts of $1.33. Revenue of $138.8 billion was in line with analysts' forecasts. Same-store sales in the U.S. rose 4.2% in the quarter and beat estimates of 3.2%.
Analysts surveyed by FactSet expected the world's largest retailer to report earnings of $1.33 a share on sales of $138.8 billion.
Walmart shares rose 3.1% in premarket trading.
Medtronic PLC (MDT) posted fiscal third-quarter adjusted profit of $1.29 a share, 5 cents above Wall Street estimates. Revenue of $7.55 billion beat estimates of $7.53 billion. The company also raised its earnings outlook for 2019.
Advance Auto Parts Inc. (AAP) earned $1.17 a share on an adjusted basis in the fourth quarter, beating forecasts of $1.13. Sales in the quarter were $2.11 billion, in line with forecasts. Same-store sales rose 3.4%, below forecasts of 3.6%.
3. -- FAA Probes Southwest Over Baggage Weight Discrepancies - Report
The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV) for widespread failures to accurately track the combined weight of checked bags loaded onto each of its jets, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing government officials and internal agency documents.
The FAA's yearlong civil probe, the documents showed, found systemic and significant mistakes with employee calculations and luggage-loading practices, resulting in potential discrepancies when pilots compute takeoff weights. The inaccuracies ranged from a few dozen pounds to more than 1,000 pounds in excess of what the paperwork indicated, sparking disputes between the company and some agency inspectors about potential safety consequences.
In an email to the Journal last week, an FAA spokesman confirmed the investigation. The agency hasn't decided whether to impose fines or any other punishment, according to people familiar with the investigation, the Journal reported.
In email responses to questions from the Journal, a Southwest spokesman said it has cooperated fully with the FAA and voluntarily reports issues to enhance safety. He called the company's dealings with the agency part of a "routine dialogue." The spokesman said the exchanges with the FAA "do not constitute findings of noncompliance." The airline said it plans to phase in new baggage-counting procedures by the end of 2019.
4. -- Honda to Close Its Plant in Britain
The plant in Swindon employs 3,500 people. Thousands of more jobs could be affected, the Associated Press reported.
Honda's president and CEO, Takahiro Hachigo, told reporters the decision wasn't related to Brexit, but was based on what made most sense for its global competitiveness in light of the need to accelerate its production of electric vehicles.
"We still don't know what sort of changes Brexit will bring at this point," he said. "We have to wait until we have a better idea about the situation."
Honda makes its Civic model at the Swindon factory, with an output of 150,000 cars per year, according to the Associated Press.
5. -- HSBC's 2018 Profit Misses Expectations
HSBC said its full-year pretax profit rose 15.7% from the same period last year to $19.9 billion, but fell shy of the Refinitiv consensus forecast of $22 billion. Following last year's "pivot' to Asia under CEO John Flint, pretax profit in that region hit $17.8 billion, but costs have continued to rise at a faster pace than revenue under a $15 billion investment plan that has eaten into the group's bottom line. Adjusted revenue rose 4% to $53.9 billion, while operating expenses rose 6% to $33 billion, HSBC said.
"These are good results that demonstrate progress against the plan that I outlined in June 2018," Flint said. "Profits and revenue were both up despite a challenging fourth quarter, and our return on tangible equity is significantly higher than in 2017."
"This is an encouraging first step towards meeting our return on tangible equity target of more than 11% by 2020," he added.
American depositary receipts of HSBC fell 4.1% in premarket trading on Tuesday.