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MW: Wall Street stocks set to fall as Fed, political worries weigh
U.S. stock futures were pointing to a loss Thursday, as some investors saw the Federal Reserve muddling the outlook for the timing of its next interest-rate hike at the close of its policy meeting Wednesday and amid fresh concerns about the new administration’s diplomacy

Investors were also wary of a batch of fresh headlines from President Donald Trump’s administration, including its decision to put Iran “on notice” over potential new sanctions and its testy exchange with the head of one of the U.S.’s best allies and trade partners: Australia and Mexico.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures YMH7, -0.22% fell 48 points, or 0.2%, to 19,769, while S&P 500 index futures ESH7, -0.22% slipped 6.25 points, or 0.3%, to 2,268. Nasdaq-100 futures NQH7, -0.24% fell 17 points, or 0.3%, to 5,131.50.


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“The FOMC was on hold, with a slightly hawkish bias. The market response was to buy the yen as equities wobble,” said Kit Juckes, global macro strategist at Société Générale, in a note on Thursday. He said the market is suffering from the continuing bickering about currency levels between the U.S. administration and Germany, China and Japan.

Stocks logged modest gains on Wednesday after the Fed held steady on interest rates and offered a positive view of the economy, but the central bank declined to telegraph the timing of its next hike, which fostered some concern that the Fed may fail to produce three interest-rate increases in 2017 as its most recent forecasts imply.

On Wednesday, a rally in shares of heavyweight Apple Inc. AAPL, +6.10% helped pull the broader market higher.

But a struggle seemed to be setting up for Thursday, coming on the heels of a sharp loss for the Nikkei 225 index NIK, -1.22% The Japanese benchmark was weighed as investors sought safety from perceived riskier assets such as stocks, boosting the Japanese yen USDJPY, -0.69% and gold prices GCJ7, +1.22%

“The U.S. campaign of words is clearly having an impact on market participants, and many are now looking for an alternative to the dollar as the currency to be the long leg of trades,” said Juckes.

The pullback for the dollar helped drag stock futures lower. Investors were also still warily eyeing new headlines from the U.S. administration after the White House late Wednesday delivered a rebuke to Iran over a recent ballistic missile-test launch, warning that the country could face new sanctions.

Late Wednesday, President Trump threatened to send U.S. troops to Mexico to keep “bad hombres” from coming in, according to news reports. Trump also tweeted late Wednesday that he would be studying a “dumb deal” with Australia to “take in thousands of illegal immigrants.” That comes after reports he berated and hung up on Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on Saturday.

Economics: Weekly jobless claims, productivity and unit-labor costs for the fourth quarter will all be released at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

See: MarketWatch’s economic calendar

Stocks to watch: Facebook Inc. FB, +2.23% rose 1% in premarket trading after gaining as much as 3% in late trading Wednesday. The social media networking website posted stronger-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings and advertising revenue soared 53% year-over-year. Analysts began raising price targets in reaction to that news Thursday.

Read: Facebook’s growth may have peaked, so what’s next?

Philip Morris International Inc. PM, -0.19% Cigna Corp. CI, +0.97% Merck & Co. Inc. MRK, +0.18% and Ralph Lauren Corp. RL, -1.20% are among the companies reporting ahead of the market’s open.

Amazon.com Inc. AMZN, +1.08% and Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. CMG, -0.29% will report after the close.

Read: Record holiday sales to take center stage in Amazon earnings

Shares of Deutsche Bank AG DB, +2.81% DBK, -5.13% could come under pressure after the German bank posted a $2 billion loss on legal costs.

Shares of Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. MJN, -1.36% shot up 25% after Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC RB., +3.53% confirmed it’s in talks to buy the baby-food maker.

Other markets: The Nikkei 225 index NIK, -1.22% finished 1.2% lower on yen strength USDJPY, -0.69% The dollar slid to an 11-week low after the Federal Reserve killed hopes for a March rate increase at its meeting.

The British pound GBPUSD, -0.5214% came under pressure after the Bank of England held interest rates but lifted its forecast for growth.

Gold prices GCJ7, +1.22% jumped $16.50, or 1.4%, to $1,224.90 an ounce, while crude oil CLH7, +0.35% rose.

European stocks SXXP, -0.10% traded lower as the euro EURUSD, +0.3529% strengthened, making exports more expensive for multinational companies.