U.S. stock-index futures drift lower as Beijing-Washington tariff talks take focus

Stock-benchmark futures retreated Thursday as investors watched fast-moving developments on tariff talks, amid the start of closely watched high-level discussions in Washington between the world’s biggest economies.

How are the benchmarks performing?

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average YMZ19, -0.14%  were down 50 points, or 0.2%, to 26,255, those for the S&P 500 index ESZ19, -0.11% were off 4.90 points to reach 2,914, a decline of less than 0.1%, while Nasdaq-100 futures NQZ19, -0.12% slipped 3.75 points, or less than 0.1%, to 7,696.

On Wednesday, the Dow DJIA, +0.70% rose 181.97 points, or 0.7%, to end at 26,346.01. The S&P 500 index SPX, +0.91% gained 26.34 points to finish at 2,919.40, up 0.9%, while the Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, +1.02% added 79.96 points, or 1%, to close at 7,903.74.

What drove the stock market?

Vice Premier Liu He is scheduled to meet with Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin later Thursday in Washington, with the hope that the parties can resolve, at least partially, tensions that have stoked anxieties on Wall Street.

Even as the talks get under way, it remains unclear if a substantive agreement can be achieved.

Markets had been whipsawed by late reports from the South China Morning Post on Wednesday, which suggested that Liu and the China delegation would leave Washington on Thursday, a day earlier than had been planned. However, a White House spokesperson later told CNBC that there were no changes to plans of the Beijing representatives.

Bloomberg News reported that the White House may implement a previously agreed upon currency deal with China ahead of schedule, and suspend tariff hikes to 30% from 25% scheduled to take effect Oct. 15 on some $250 billion in China product . Those moves would be part of a first-phase agreement with China,

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