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Wall Street set to open slightly higher; French election eyed

22 April 2017

NEW YORK, April 21 US stocks edged lower on Friday as investors exercised caution ahead of the first round of the closely contested French presidential election, although the S&P 500 remained on track for its first weekly gain in three.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said earlier Thursday that the tax reform legislation will come "very soon".

S&P 500 e-minis were up 2 points, or 0.09 percent, with 115,342 contracts traded.Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 6.25 points, or 0.11 percent, on volume of 24,801 contracts.On the economic front, data is expected to show March existing home sales expanded slightly to 5.6 million from 5.48 million in February.

Recent polls showed centrist Emmanuel Macron hung on to his lead in a four-way race that is too close to call.

Of the 82 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings through yesterday afternoon, about 75 per cent have topped expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data, above the 71 per cent average for the past four quarters.

Geopolitical tensions originating from North Korea were eclipsed by nervousness ahead of Sunday's first round French presidential elections.

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Overall, profits of S&P 500 companies are estimated to have risen 10.8 percent in the quarter, the best since 2011.

Oil prices edged lower, on course for the biggest weekly drop in a month, over doubts that an OPEC-led production cut will restore balance to an oversupplied market.

Brent crude futures were down 6 cents at US$52.87 per barrel as bloated inventories weighed.

AmEx reported a smaller-than-expected drop in quarterly profit on Wednesday, indicating the credit card company was recovering from the loss of key partnerships previous year.

The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC was up 29.20 points, or 0.5 percent, at 5,892.23.

Philip Morris fell 3.8 percent to $109.61 as the biggest drag to the benchmark S&P index after the tobacco maker's first-quarter profit forecast fell below estimates.

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US stocks were higher in on Thursday, with the S&P 500 index on track for its best day in about seven weeks, as American Express set the tone for the latest batch of earnings.

But despite Friday's lower close, the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite all ended the week higher, ending a two-week losing streak.

Before the open, stocks were cautiously higher as selling pressure associated with the upcoming French election was mitigated by upbeat first quarter results from Dow component stocks Visa ( V ) and General Election ( GE ).

The S&P 500 closed just below its 50-day moving average, a level that had acted as resistance after the index fell below it last week.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,535 to 1,175.

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Wall Street set to open slightly higher; French election eyed