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* U.S. retail sales post biggest gain in 1-1/2 years in March
* Honeywell gains after quarterly profit beat
* AmEx falls after revenue misses estimates
* Futures up: Dow 0.10%, S&P 0.14%, Nasdaq 0.06% (Changes comment, updates prices)
By Amy Caren Daniel
April 18 (Reuters) - Wall Street was set to open slightly higher on Thursday, ahead of a long Easter weekend, supported by robust retail sales data, with investors eying the release of a long-awaited Mueller report.
U.S. retail sales increased by the most in 1-1/2 years in March, the latest indication that economic growth picked up in the first quarter after a false start.
Adding to sentiment, a Labor Department showed the number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits fell to more than a 49-1/2-year low last week.
“Retail sales really came back roaring. It looks like the consumer made up for the government shutdown and there were good numbers in jobless claims,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York.
The robust data helped blunt weak manufacturing data out of France and Germany that showed activity in the euro zone’s two biggest economies continued to contract.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russia’s role in the 2016 U.S. election will provide the first public look at the findings of an inquiry that has cast a shadow over Donald Trump’s presidency.
Attorney General William Barr will hold a news conference at 9:30 a.m. ET to discuss the report, ahead of its release.
“I think the markets are going to focus on how damaging the Mueller report is going to be for Trump’s re-election chances,” said Rick Meckler, partner at Cherry Lane Investments, in New Vernon, New Jersey.
“But as with everything with Trump, it probably won’t have a big impact long term.”
At 8:46 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 26 points, or 0.1%. S&P 500 e-minis were up 4 points, or 0.14% and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 4.75 points, or 0.06%.
On trade, Washington and Beijing set a tentative timeline for a fresh round of face-to-face meetings ahead of a possible signing ceremony in late May or early June, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
Of the 54 S&P 500 companies that have posted earnings so far, 79.6% have beaten consensus, according to Refinitiv data.
Analysts now expect first-quarter profits for S&P 500 companies to have dropped 1.8% year-on-year, an improvement from recent estimates, but would still be the first earnings decline since 2016.
Among stocks, Honeywell International Inc shares rose 1% in premarket trading after its quarterly profit beat estimates and the industrial conglomerate raised its annual forecast.
American Express Co fell 1% after credit-card issuer’s quarterly revenue missed estimates.
Investors are also awaiting the hotly-anticipated debut of online scrapbook company Pinterest Inc, the first high-profile initial public offering of a “tech unicorn” after Lyft Inc’s struggles.
Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel and Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila