May 31, 2018 / 11:58 AM / 3 months ago

US STOCKS-Futures flat as trade concerns temper Italy optimism

* Futures: Dow off 8 pts, S&P flat, Nasdaq up 2.5 pts

By Medha Singh

May 31 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures were trading flat on Thursday as optimism over Italy trying to avoid a snap election was hampered by worries of a looming trade war with the European Union.

Washington is set to announce plans to slap tariffs on EU steel and aluminum imports as early as Thursday morning, sources said, while the U.S. commerce secretary said any escalation of their trade dispute would depend on the bloc’s reaction.

Shares of Steel Dynamics, AK Steel and US Steel gained between 1.2 percent and 4.8 percent and aluminum maker Alcoa rose more than 2 percent in premarket trading.

Friction between the United States and its trading partners have roiled financial markets, especially after U.S. President Donald Trump in March decided to impose 25 percent tariff on steel imports and a 10 percent tariff on aluminum.

At 7:38 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 8 points, or 0.03 percent. S&P 500 e-minis remained unchanged and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 2.5 points, or 0.04 percent.

Markets rebounded on Wednesday, with the S&P 500 recovering its losses from the previous session as fears about Italy political turmoil faded.

Italy’s right-wing leader Matteo Salvini, the head of the League, said he would “seriously consider” an offer to join a last-ditch attempt to form a government and avoid snap elections that could be dominated by the issue of euro membership.

Economic data due includes a report on personal consumption expenditure index for April, which is expected to fall to 0.1 percent from a previous 0.2 percent increase.Consumer spending for the month is expected to have remained steady at 0.40 percent.

Among stocks, Micron slipped 2.6 percent in premarket trading after Morgan Stanley cut rating to “equal-weight” from “overweight”.

Sears Holdings slid 10.3 percent after the struggling department store operator’s quarterly profit slumped nearly 30 percent.

Dollar General declined 5.72 percent after the discount retailer’s quarterly same-store sales missed analysts’ estimates.

Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur

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