Stock futures were lower on Wednesday, Nov. 15, as data on U.S. consumer prices and retail sales came in near expected levels. Investors in the U.S. remained uncertain over the future of tax reform, while sentiment was dampened by a sharp decline in oil prices.
Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell 95 points, or 0.41%. S&P 500 Index futures declined 10 points, or 0.38%, while Nasdaq futures tumbled 19 points, or 0.3%.
The Dow has traded lower for three of the last four trading sessions. Component General Electric Co. (GE) continues to weigh on the blue-chip index after the company announced earlier this week that it would cut its dividend in half. GE stock slumped to its lowest price since December 2011 by the market close Tuesday, Nov. 14. Shares were indicated to open 0.8% lower on Wednesday.
The week-long slide in oil prices accelerated distinctly on Wednesday as traders digested a surprise increase in U.S. crude inventories, a forecast for weaker demand growth and suggestions that Russia isn't ready to extend OPEC-coordinated production cuts.
Global benchmark Brent crude fell as low as $61.34 a barrel in overnight trading before regaining some to trade down 1% on Wednesday to $61.56 a barrel. West Texas Intermediate crude oil slumped more than 1% to $55.11 a barrel.
U.S. crude stockpiles rose by 6.5 million barrels in the week to Nov. 10, the American Petroleum Institute reported on Tuesday. The increase came as a shock to analysts who predicted U.S. crude reserves would decline by about 2.2 million barrels over the period. Gasoline stocks also increased, up 2.4 million barrels, once again surprising analysts who had forecast stockpiles would fall by more than 1 million barrels.
The surprise out of the U.S. followed an International Energy Agency report that suggested that oil demand growth over 2018 would be weaker than expected. The IEA on Tuesday cut its demand growth forecast by about 100,000 barrels per day for both 2017 and 2018.
Lawmakers in the House will be meeting to debate tax reform Wednesday and are expected to vote Thursday, Nov. 16, after President Donald Trump rallied lawmakers in support of the legislation, according to a report from The Hill.
A vote -- or any move forward -- will offer investors more direction on the fate of the much-anticipated legislation that has bred uncertainty in markets. When the House meets, it will be allowed four hours of debate and no opportunities for amendments to the body's tax reform bill. House leaders have said they'll have enough votes to pass their version this week.
The Senate GOP plan differs from that of the House and could face more hurdles. The Senate version would add $1.5 trillion to the federal deficit over 10 years and eliminate widely popular deductions such as state and local taxes.
Senate leaders also said Tuesday they are intent on repealing the individual mandate required under the Affordable Care Act, a move that would curb the plan's impact on the deficit.
The Consumer Price Index for October rose 0.1%, meeting the expectations of economists surveyed by FactSet. Retail sales for October rose 0.2% vs. estimates the figure would rise 0.1%. The Empire State Manufacturing Survey for November was 19.4, coming in lower than economists' expectations for a reading of 26.
The economic calendar in the U.S. on Wednesday also includes Oil Inventories for the week ended Nov. 10, at 10:30 a.m.
Target Corp. (TGT) stumbled, down 4.3% in premarket trading Wednesday, after the retailer beat earnings expectations for the third quarter but warned of a "highly competitive" holiday sales environment. Adjusted earnings were 91 cents a share, down from the same period last year but topping analysts' expectations of 86 cents. Revenue for the quarter was $16.67 billion, besting the forecast $16.60 billion. Comp sales gained 0.9% and digital sales increased 24% over last year.
Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK.A) (BRK.B) lifted its stake in Apple Inc. (AAPL) by about 3% to 134 million shares in the third quarter, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Berkshire lowered its stake in International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) by 17.06 million shares in the period. The company now owns about 37 million shares worth $5.37 billion. Berkshire also trimmed its stakes in Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) and Charter Communications Inc. (CHTR) during the third quarter.
Snap Inc. (SNAP) stock slid 1.75% premarket Wednesday after filings showed billionaire investor George Soros dumped all his shares in the messaging app group over the previous quarter.
Soros Fund Management, which had 1.55 million shares in the group as of the end of the June quarter -- at the time valued at around $28 billion -- completely dissolved its position over the three months ending in September, Securities and Exchange Commission filings revealed.
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