Stock futures shed their earlier gains to decline on Sunday night as worries over the global economy plagued investors.
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Dow Jones Industrial Average futures traded 124 points lower, as of 11:12 p.m. ET Sunday, implying a decline of 80.32 points at Monday’s open. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq futures also pointed to opening declines for the two indexes on Monday.
The moves came amid a stock sell-off in Monday’s Asian trading session, with Japan’s Nikkei 225 dragged more than 3 percent lower.
U.S. futures had earlier seen gains after Attorney General William Barr said special counsel Robert Mueller‘s long-awaited investigation did not find enough evidence that President Donald Trump ‘s 2016 campaign colluded with Russia.
In a letter to top lawmakers, Barr wrote:
“The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”
The White House also said the results are a “total and complete exoneration of the President of the United States.”
Mueller’s investigation had been a lingering concern for investors as it could have hindered Trump’s efforts to further cut taxes and further ease regulations on corporations. The news removes a worry for Wall Street and can help the administration focus on more pressing issues for the market, such as striking a trade deal with China or even working with Democrats on an infrastructure plan.
“This cloud has now dissipated and this should allow markets to breathe a sigh of relief,” said Jeff Kilburg, CEO of KKM Financial. “This could be a real positive for the market if it allows Trump to focus on getting the Chinese trade deal concluded.”
The investigation nagged the Trump administration for nearly two years. It led to the indictment and arrest of several Trump’s operatives, including ex-campaign manager Paul Manafort. Manafort was sentenced to 47 months in jail for fraud earlier this month.
Investors across the world worried the probe could also bring down Trump himself by potentially leading to his impeachment. Now, Wall Street can remove one block from the proverbial wall of worry and eye the ongoing U.S.-China trade talks.
“It’s been like an aching joint,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities. “It’s always been that one market catalyst that has always been right around the corner.”
“We may well have removed a nagging concern, but the current concerns like the China trade war and overseas grief that outweighs that. The disaster du jour was PMI and the global economy,” said Hogan.
China and the U.S. are expected to strike a deal sometime in April. Sentiment around the negotiations improved this year to help lift stocks to within striking distance of their record highs set last year. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Saturday that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer were headed to Beijing for further talks on Thursday. Trade worries plagued investors for most of last year as they worried a prolonged trade war between the world’s largest economies could hinder corporate profits.
“The fact that these tariffs may not be going away is having a negative multiplier effect on the global economy. There’s a massive GDP destruction going on,” said Larry McDonald, founder of The Bear Traps Report. “We will rally on [the Mueller report] but everything that took us down last week will keep rearing its ugly head again.”
Equities fell sharply on Friday as an inverted yield curve stoked fears that an economic recession is on the horizon. Disappointing economic data released Friday out of Europe, coupled with a downgraded economic outlook from the Federal Reserve, added to those concerns.
The spread between the 3-month Treasury bill and the 10-year note went negative on Friday for the first time in more than a decade. Investors consider this to be a signal that a recession may be coming soon.
The futures’ move higher on Sunday became more muted after the initial pop as the optimism on the Mueller probe faded and worries over the global economy lingered.
“I think the market was going to bounce back anyway and this gives it a little extra oomph,” said Stephen Weiss, founder of Short Hills Capital Partners. “But overall the investigation rarely was a big concern for investors. If there is a big pop on this, you can likely fade it.”
The S&P 500 is up nearly 31 percent since Trump was elected in 2016. One key catalyst for the move higher in that time is a massive corporate tax cut signed by Trump in late 2017.
“My instincts are that, at least at first pass, it seems to be relatively favorable,” said Nathan Sheets, chief economist at PGIM Fixed Income, referring to the Mueller investigation ending. “Where all of this really connects to markets and markets outlook is implications for tax policy going forward. The sense has been if Trump is damaged, the tax cuts that were put in place could be reversed or — given the rhetoric we’re hearing — taxes could even be increased.”
—CNBC’s Tom Franck contributed to this report.
Originally published at CNBC