The Wall Street Journal: U.S. stock futures move south as Wall Street watches for Fed minutes

U.S. stock futures signaled a lower start for Wall Street trade on Wednesday as investors brace for minutes from the Federal Reserve’s most recent policy gathering and as the market with the latest on American trade relations.

How are the major benchmarks faring?

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures

YMM19, -0.38%

 were off 98 points, or 0.4%, at 25,774, while S&P 500 futures

ESM19, -0.47%

 fell 14.10 points, or 0.5%, to 2,851.75. Nasdaq-100 futures

NQM19, -0.75%

 slipped 55.25 points to 7,409.75, down 0.7%.

On Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average

DJIA, +0.77%

rose 197.43 points, or 0.8%, to 25,877.33, while the S&P 500 index

SPX, +0.85%

 gained 0.9% to 2,864.36. The Nasdaq Composite Index

COMP, +1.08%

 added 1.1%, to 7,785.72.

What’s driving the market?

Minutes for the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee’s April 30- May 1 will be released at 2 p.m. Eastern Time, which could offer clues on the outlook for rate increases — a potential catalyst for Wall Street investors.

The account of monetary policy makers’ most recent confabulation comes as investors contend with tariff tensions that some fear could undercut economic expansion. Some on strategists have placed bets that signs of weakness and tepid inflation may compel the central bank to reduce rates.

On Wednesday, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard didn’t disabuse market participants of that notion. In remarks made overnight in Hong Kong, he said the FOMC may need to lower its short-term interest-rate target if inflation doesn’t appear on track to rise back to desired levels at 2%. Bullard is a voting member of the FOMC.

Investors have been struggling to drum up appetite for buying after a bruising bout of technology selling on Monday. And while the U.S. has offered some temporary reprieve in its crackdown on Huawei Technologies, media reports said the White House could add several Chinese video surveillance firms to a list of blacklisted companies over human-rights complaints. Shares of Hangzhou HIK Vision Digital

002415, -5.54%

 slid 5% in China on that report.

China’s ambassador to the U.S. said late Tuesday that Beijing was open to restarting trade talks, but that the U.S. was indecisive. Meanwhile, President Xi Jinping has tried to rally the country, with a call for Chinese to start a modern “long march” to brace against the possibility of a lengthy trade conflict with the U.S.

Elsewhere on the Fed front, investors will await remarks from New York Fed President John Williams at 10 a.m. Eastern Time, where he will discuss housing, while Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic will deliver a speech at a conference at the Dallas Fed at 10:10 a.m.

What are analysts saying?

“It seems that the US government’s decision to temporarily ease restrictions imposed on Huawei allowed some more risk-on trading . . . however, despite the performance of the equity world yesterday, we are skeptical over a long-lasting recovery,” wrote Charalambos Pissouros, senior market analyst at JFD Group, in a Wednesday note. “Before we get confident on that front, we would like to see concrete signs that both the U.S. and China are truly willing find common ground.”

What stocks are in focus?

Shares of Avon Products Inc.

AVP, +1.91%

 jumped 17.2% in premarket trading after media reports said Brazil makeup group Natura Cosmeticos

NATU3, +0.36%

 will buy the iconic American makeup company.

Qualcomm Inc.

QCOM, +1.47%

 stock dropped 10.8% in premarket after a federal judge ruled late Tuesday that the chip equipment company violated antitrust laws, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Lowe’s Cos.

LOW, +1.74%

 shares fell more than 7% after the home-improvement retailer delivered first-quarter results that were weaker than expected.

Target Corp.

TGT, -0.17%

 shares, meanwhile, climbed before the bell, up 6.6%, after reporting results that were better than analysts’ consensus estimates.

Nordstrom Inc.

JWN, +1.04%

reported worse-than-expected, first-quarter earnings and declining sales on Tuesday evening. The stock is down nearly 10% before the start of trade Wednesday.

Shares of VF Corp.

VFC, +1.64%

  fell 6.6% in premarket action Wednesday after the parent of The North Face and Vans slightly beat analysts expectations for fiscal fourth-quarter earnings-per share, and declining revenue in line with forecasts.

How did other markets trade?

Stocks in Asia finished mixed, with China’s Shanghai Composite Index

SHCOMP, -0.49%

closing down nearly 0.5%, while European stocks

SXXP, -0.52%

shifted lower.

Among commodities, crude prices


were down after data showed rising U.S. supplies, and ahead of another key inventory report. Gold

GCM19, +0.27%

is trading slightly higher after notching its lowest close in about three weeks and the U.S. dollar

DXY, -0.07%

edged lower.

Providing critical information for the U.S. trading day. Subscribe to MarketWatch's free Need to Know newsletter. Sign up here.