Market Snapshot: Stock-market futures sag as investors await progress on taxes, watch central bankers

U.S. stock futures were struggling Tuesday as fears of a more pronounced retreat for equities weighs on investor sentiment, as Wall Street awaits updates to efforts to reform U.S. tax policy.

Meanwhile, central bankers were in focus, as Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen joined her European and Japanese counterparts in a panel discussion in Frankfurt. Comments are expected from other Fed speakers, as investors listen for hints on the path for U.S. interest rates.

What are the main benchmarks doing?

S&P 500 futures ESZ7, -0.19% fell 5.15 points, or 0.2%, at 2,576.75, while Dow Jones Industrial Average futures YMZ7, -0.17%  were off 40 points, or 0.2%, to 23,366. Nasdaq-100 futures NQZ7, -0.06%  dipped 5 points, or 0.1%, to 6,307.

On Monday, the major U.S. indexes posted modest gains, as uncertainty over the state of Republican tax-cut legislation continued and as blue-chip General Electric Co. GE, -7.17%  hit a more-than-five-year low. The S&P 500 SPX, +0.10%  closed up 0.1% to 2,584.84, while the Dow DJIA, +0.07%  rose 17.49 points to finish at 23,439.70. The Nasdaq Composite COMP, +0.10%  gained 0.1% to end at 6,757.60.

Need to know: The S&P 500 has been in the black all year—here’s what typically happens next

What could drive markets?

Yellen, European Central Bank President Mario Draghi, Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda and Bank of England Gov. Mark Carney took part in a moderated discussion on communication and markets, which began at 5 a.m. Eastern.

In comments, Yellen stressed that all forward guidance from the Federal Reserve should be conditional on the outlook for the economy, meaning forward looking statements won’t always be a certainty. “Market participants seek more than central banks are prepared to offer,” she said.

Earlier at the ECB conference in Frankfurt, Chicago Fed President Charles Evans said a new approach to interest-rate setting may be needed to deal with new shocks, according to prepared remarks.

St. Louis Fed President James Bullard is due to give a speech at an economic breakfast in Louisville, Ky., at 8:15 a.m. Eastern. Later, after the market open, Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic is expected to give a speech on economic outlook and monetary policy at a business forum in Montgomery, Ala., at around 1 p.m. Eastern.

Concerns about delays in much-anticipated corporate tax cuts out of Washington have been acting as a drag on stocks, and investors could pay attention to fresh comments on that subject.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin late Monday ruled out any increase in the corporate tax rate to above 20%, via an interview at The Wall Street Journal CEO Council gathering on Monday. “It’s not going up,” Mnuchin said. “I can tell you this is one of the things the president feels very strongly about.”

What are strategists saying?

“’Buy the dip’” mentality has been in play throughout the year, especially because many investors don’t want to miss the opportunity of a potential rally when the U.S. lowers the corporate tax rate, however, the sharp differences between the House and the Senate suggest there are still many barriers to overcome,” Hussein Sayed, chief market strategist at FXTM, in a note to clients.

“Overstretched valuations, tighter monetary policies, geopolitical risks, a slowdown and high debt levels in China and low inflation, are some of the factors that could potentially trigger a market correction. However, all of these warnings are being ignored, and stocks continue to score new highs,” said Sayed.

Which stocks look like key movers?

Buffalo Wild Wings Inc. BWLD, -1.35% shares shot up 26% in premarket, on track to open at a 4 1/2-month high after The Wall Street Journal reported that a private-equity firm had bid more than $2.3 billion for the restaurant chain.

Advance Auto Parts Inc. AAP, +1.31%  shares shot up 15% after reporting a profit beat that offset a sales miss.

Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. DKS, -1.97%  fell nearly 6% in premarket after results that included a weak 2018 outlook.

Home Depot Inc. HD, +0.76% shares slipped 0.7% in premarket The home-improvement retailer reported third-quarter earnings that beat analysts’ estimates and increased its guidance for the year partly because of hurricane-related business.

TJX Cos., TJX, +0.77%  is still due to report ahead of the open.

What economic data releases are due?

On the data front, the National Federation of Independent Business said its optimism index rose to 103.8 in October from 103.

A reading for producer prices in October showed a rise of 0.4%, topping expectations of an increase of 0.1% from economists polled by MarketWatch.

Check out: MarketWatch’s Economic Calendar

What are other assets doing?

European stocks SXXP, -0.46% faced a sixth day of losses, as the euro climbed. Asian markets were mostly lower, led by a sharp decline in Australian stocks XJO, -0.88% and not helped by news China industrial production fell in October.

Gold futures GCZ7, -0.41%  fell 0.3% to $1,275.10 an ounce, while oil futures CLZ7, -0.42%  slipped 27 cents, or 0.5%, to $56.48 a barrel. The International Energy Agency said Tuesday that the U.S. is on track to become the leader in oil and gas production by 2025, owing to an unprecedented shale boom. But in its monthly report, the IEA also cut its global demand forecast.

Read: Oil prices drift south as IEA cuts global demand forecast

The ICE U.S. Dollar Index DXY, -0.48% was down 0.4% at 94.135. The British pound GBPUSD, -0.0762%  fell against the dollar on news of weaker-than-expected U.K. inflation.

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