February 20, 2019 / 1:46 PM / 7 months ago

US STOCKS-Wall St set to open slightly lower with focus on trade talks

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* U.S.-China trade talks continue in Washington

* CVS falls on weak profit forecast

* Southwest Airlines drops on cutting rev outlook

* Investors eye FOMC minutes at 2 pm ET

* Futures off: Dow 0.14 pct, S&P 0.10 pct, Nasdaq 0.02 pct (Updates prices, adds details)

By Shreyashi Sanyal

Feb 20 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were slightly lower on Wednesday after a handful of downbeat earnings reports, while investors weighed the latest developments in trade talks between the United States and China.

President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that trade discussions with China were going well and suggested he was open to extending the deadline to complete negotiations, saying March 1 was not a “magical” date.

Up to now, it was assumed U.S. tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports would rise to 25 percent from 10 percent if no trade deal was reached by then.

“A market-friendly outcome this week will be for both sides to agree on extending the March 1 deadline, which should provide more time for finding a middle ground on trade policy,” FXTM analyst Lukman Otunuga wrote in a client note.

“Trump stating that the talks are ‘very complex’ and the current March deadline is not a ‘magical date’, a breakthrough deal is still some distance away.”

The benchmark S&P 500 index has climbed 18 percent from its December lows, fueled by optimism on trade, a largely upbeat fourth-quarter earnings season and a dovish Federal Reserve.

Investors will be looking for more clues on monetary policy, as the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is slated to release minutes from its January meeting at 2 pm ET (1900 GMT).

The minutes are expected to reaffirm the Federal Reserve’s statement last month that it would be “patient” with further rate hikes after markets swooned late in December on fears of an economic slowdown.

“Investors expect more details regarding the shrinking of the Fed’s balance sheet and obviously more clues on the Fed pause,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in a client note.

At 8:19 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 35 points, or 0.14 percent. S&P 500 e-minis were down 2.75 points, or 0.1 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 1.25 points, or 0.02 percent.

CVS Health Corp fell 7.6 percent after the drugstore chain operator missed full-year profit forecast due to weakness in its long-term healthcare services business.

Southwest Airlines Co slipped 4.3 percent after the carrier cut its forecast for first-quarter revenue per seat mile on weak passenger demand and a $60 million hit from the partial U.S. government shutdown.

Shares of Delta Air Lines Inc dropped 1.2 percent and American Airlines Group 1.4 percent.

LendingClub Corp shares tumbled 8 percent after the online lender forecast a bigger-than-expected quarterly loss on seasonal weakness and economic uncertainty in the United States and overseas.

Garmin Ltd climbed 6.1 percent after forecasting full-year results above expectations and reporting strong quarterly earnings on higher demand for its smartwatches and navigation systems. (Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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