US STOCKS-Futures edge lower as investors await fresh triggers

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US STOCKS-Futures edge lower as investors await fresh triggers

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* Futures dip: Dow 0.23 pct, S&P 0.14 pct, Nasdaq 0.18 pct

By Medha Singh

March 7 (Reuters) – U.S. stock futures ticked lower on Thursday after three days of declines, as investors sought fresh reasons to buy following a strong run in stocks this year.

With the fourth-quarter earnings season wrapping up, investors are awaiting new triggers to drive the market, including a potential U.S.-China trade agreement and Friday’s jobs report.

Optimism over the chances of a trade deal as early as this month and the Federal Reserve’s cautious stance on raising interest rates has led to a 10.6 percent surge in the S&P 500 this year, though the rally seems to have lost its steam.

In the past three sessions, the S&P 500 has retreated about 1 percent from a four-month high it hit on Friday to close above the 2,800-point mark, a level, which investors say, is acting as a technical resistance for the benchmark index.

Also on investors’ radar is a European Central Bank meeting that is expected to cut growth forecasts and hint at a new round of ultra-cheap loans, hoping to stop an unexpected slowdown from becoming a downturn.

“Stocks are headed for a weak opening as the trade focus and the policy meeting of the ECB are in focus,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities in New York.

ECB’s decision is due at 7:45 a.m. ET (1245 GMT), while President Mario Draghi’s news conference is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. ET (1330 GMT).

At 7:18 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 60 points, or 0.23 percent. S&P 500 e-minis were down 4 points, or 0.14 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 12.75 points, or 0.18 percent.

The heavyweight FAANG stocks lost some ground in early premarket trading with Facebook Inc, Inc , Apple Inc, Netflix Inc and Alphabet Inc down between 0.1 percent and 0.6 percent.

Among other movers, Burlington Stores Inc slipped 4.3 percent after the off-price retailer missed quarterly revenue estimates.

Zayo Group Holdings Inc rose 1.2 percent after activist hedge fund Starboard Value LP built a stake in the communications infrastructure provider and pushed for its sale.

In economic news, the Labor Department’s report is likely to show that initial claims for state unemployment benefits rose 225,000 at the end of last week from 210,000 a week earlier. The data is due at 8:30 a.m. ET.

That comes ahead of the more comprehensive non-farm payrolls report on Friday. (Reporting by Medha Singh and Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)