Futures flat as geopolitical risks weigh; earnings eyed

© Reuters. Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange© Reuters. Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange

By Yashaswini Swamynathan

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures were little changed on Wednesday as rising geopolitical tensions and the approaching earnings season weighed on investors' risk appetite.

* The United States launched missiles at a Syrian airfield last week to retaliate a deadly chemical attack on civilians. The strikes pushed President Donald Trump, who came to power in January calling for warmer ties with Russia, and his administration into confrontation with Moscow.

* The White House on Tuesday accused Russia of shielding the Syrian government from the blame for the chemical attack, even as Trump said he had no plans to “go into” the war-torn country.

* Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping called on the U.S. for a peaceful resolution with North Korea, which has warned it would launch a nuclear attack if provoked by the United States, as a U.S. Navy strike group headed toward the western Pacific.

* Corporate earnings are likely to provide the next catalyst for the market as investors focus on fundamentals to justify lofty valuations on Wall Street. The big banks unofficially kick-off the season on Thursday, with results due from JPMorgan (N:), Citigroup (N:) and Wells Fargo (N:).

* Gold prices were flat but remained close to the highest level hit in November. The () was also little changed, while oil prices edged up slightly. =>

* Comments from Dallas Federal Reserve Bank President Robert Kaplan will be parsed for any clues on interest rate hikes and the Fed's plans to trim its balance sheet. Kaplan is expected to speak at 10:00 a.m. ET. (1300 GMT)

* Shares moving premarket included Whole Foods (O:), which rose 2.8 percent to $ 34.50 after Bloomberg reported overnight that Amazon.com (O:) had mulled buying the organic food chain last year.

* Pipeline operator NuStar Energy (N:) dropped 7.5 percent to $ 47.60 after agreeing to buy Navigator Energy for $ 1.48 billion.

Futures snapshot at 6:56 a.m. ET:

* Dow e-minis () were down 9 points, or 0.04 percent, with 25,041 contracts changing hands.

* S&P 500 e-minis () were down 2 points, or 0.09 percent, with 147,572 contracts traded.

* Nasdaq 100 e-minis () were down 2.75 points, or 0.05 percent, on volume of 26,975 contracts.

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