* FOMC minutes of Dec meeting expected at 2 p.m. ET
* Pvt employers add more jobs than expected in Dec - ADP
* Fed’s Fischer said 4 rate hikes ‘in the ballpark’ in his view
* Apple falls after report on company cutting production
* Futures down: Dow 302 pts, S&P 38.5 pts, Nasdaq 96.75 pts (Adds details, comment, updates prices)
By Tanya Agrawal
Jan 6 (Reuters) - Wall Street was set to open sharply lower on Wednesday as investors looked for safe havens after China allowed its currency to weaken further and oil prices fell to their lowest in more than 11 years.
Investors were also nervous about rising geopolitical tensions after North Korea said it had successfully tested a hydrogen bomb and Saudi Arabia cut ties with Iran.
The People’s Bank of China on Wednesday set the yuan’s official midpoint rate at its weakest level in 4-1/2 years, while a PMI survey showed services sector activity expanded at its slowest rate in 17 months in December in the country.
Gold hit a four-week high, while the U.S. dollar touched a one-month high against a basket of major currencies.
“We’re looking at a nasty decline at the open,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial in New York. “While geopolitical concerns generally aren’t long lasting, rising incidents have investors and the markets concerned.”
S&P 500 e-minis were down 38.5 points, or 1.91 percent, with 386,190 contracts traded at 8:19 a.m. ET (1319 GMT). Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 96.75 points, or 2.16 percent, on volume of 70,048 contracts. Dow e-minis were down 302 points, or 1.77 percent, with 71,408 contracts changing hands.
The year was off to a shaky start after weak economic data from China reignited fears of a global economic slowdown and as the dip in oil prices show no signs of abating.
U.S. Federal Reserve Vice Chair Stanley Fischer told CNBC in an interview that levels of uncertainty had risen after events in China and North Korea.
Fischer said the Fed did not know enough at the moment to comment on how many hikes there would be in 2016 but that four hikes were “in the ballpark” in his view.
Investors will get a clearer picture into the Fed’s thinking when the central bank releases minutes from its Dec. 15-16 meeting, where it raised interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade. The minutes are expected at 2 p.m. ET.
Data showed that private employers added 257,000 jobs, far ahead of the 192,000 increase expected by economists polled by Reuters. The data comes ahead of a more comprehensive non-farm payroll report on Friday.
The U.S. trade deficit narrowed in November likely as efforts by businesses to reduce an inventory overhang pushed imports of goods to their lowest level in nearly five years. The Commerce Department said the trade gap fell 5.0 percent to $42.4 billion.
Shares of oil majors Exxon and Chevron were down over 2 percent in premarket trading.
Apple was down 2.4 percent at $100.25, a day after the Nikkei reported that the company is expected to cut production of its latest iPhone models due to mounting inventories.
Yahoo was down 1.5 percent at $31.73 after investor Starboard said the company should change its management, board and its business strategy. (Reporting by Tanya Agrawal; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)