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* Futures drop: Dow 0.56 pct, S&P 0.52 pct, Nasdaq 0.56 pct
* Trump didn’t suggest firing Fed Chairman-Treasury Secretary
* Top 6 US banks’ CEOs tell Mnuchin they have enough liquidity
* “Plunge Protection Team” convenes for first time since 2009
* S&P’s worst Dec since Great Depression, Nasdaq in bear market (Changes comment, adds details, updates prices)
By Medha Singh
Dec 24 (Reuters) – Wall Street was set to open lower in a shortened session on Monday, with investors digesting a slew of news from White House over the weekend amid the benchmark S&P 500’s worst December since the Great Depression.
At 9:05 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 126 points, or 0.56 percent. S&P 500 e-minis dipped 12.5 points, or 0.52 percent, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis declined 34 points, or 0.56 percent.
Trading volumes are expected to remain muted, with markets closing at 1:00 p.m. ET ahead of Christmas holiday on Tuesday, and that could exaggerate market movements.
A bruising December for the U.S. markets – triggered by concerns over a partial federal government shutdown, the U.S.-China trade dispute and interest rate hikes – has put the S&P 500 on pace for its biggest monthly percentage decline since 2008.
The Nasdaq is down nearly 22 percent from its record high close in late August and formally in a bear market. The S&P and Dow Jones Industrial Average are also not far off those levels, having sunk 17.5 percent and 16.3 percent, respectively, from their closing highs.
With the equity markets in free fall, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke with the chief executive officers of the six largest U.S. banks, who confirmed they have enough liquidity to continue lending and that “the markets continue to function properly.”
The drop in markets picked up last week after the Federal Reserve raised rates for the fourth time this year and said it would largely continue with its rate hike path and slim down its vast holdings of bonds, draining the easy money that has helped power the stock market’s decade-long bull run.
President Donald Trump has criticized the Fed for raising rates and reports over the weekend suggested he had privately discussed firing Fed Chairman Jerome Powell. Mnuchin later said Trump does not believe he has the power to remove Powell.
“Volumes will be greatly reduced on a day like today and the twist is we have a lot of things going on. It will be interesting to see how the market digests all of this in a three-and-a-half hours session,” said Andre Bakhos, managing director at New Vines Capital LLC in Bernardsville, New Jersey.
“The main factor on investors’ minds is the government shutdown and what the resolution can be. It’s really fear of the unknown that has given investors grief.”
Mnuchin will convene a call on Monday with the president’s Working Group on financial markets, which includes Powell and the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The group, formed following the stock market crash of October 1987, is known more commonly as the “Plunge Protection Team” and met in 2009 in the latter stages of the financial crisis.
“We’re in a turbulent time and it will be interesting to see how we end the year.. but right now it certainly looks like Santa Claus isn’t coming to town,” Barkhos said. (Reporting by Medha Singh in Bengaluru)
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