August 22, 2018 / 1:05 PM / 3 months ago

US STOCKS-Wall St to open lower on Trump legal woes; Fed minutes eyed

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* Manafort conviction and Cohen guilty plea add uncertainty

* U.S.-China trade talks to start, Trump’s expectations low

* Target rises, Lowe’s drops after contrasting results

* Futures dip: Dow 0.14 pct, S&P 0.20 pct, Nasdaq 0.15 pct

* Fed minutes due at 2:00 p.m. ET (Changes comment, updates prices)

By Shreyashi Sanyal

Aug 22 (Reuters) - U.S. stock futures dropped on Wednesday after President Donald Trump’s political position was threatened by the criminal convictions of two former advisers and on caution ahead of U.S.-China trade talks and the Federal Reserve’s minutes.

Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was found guilty on tax and bank fraud charges on Tuesday evening, followed by Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleading guilty to a range of charges.

Cohen testified that Trump directed him to commit a crime by arranging hush payments ahead of the 2016 election for two women who said they had affairs with Trump. This could hurt Republican Party’s election prospects and widen a criminal probe that has overshadowed Trump’s presidency.

“There are some question marks on what the implications of yesterday’s news are on markets to the extent where they are slightly lower, but that’s not much of a move,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley FBR in New York.

“The markets are just taking a pause to see what some of the Fed’s minutes tell us. The biggest driver in the market right now is around policy, and investors are certainly curious about what the minutes of the Fed will look like.”

The minutes of the Fed’s August policy meeting is expected to reaffirm the central bank’s confidence in the U.S. economy and its commitment to future rate hikes. The report is due at 2:00 p.m. ET (1800 GMT).

Trump has been critical about higher rates and has asked the Fed to do more to help him boost the economy. He has also said he does not expect any real progress on the Sino-U.S. trade talks.

The benchmark S&P 500 is on the cusp of notching the longest-ever bull-market run, which comes a day after the index hit an all-time intraday high.

Stock futures opened lower late on Tuesday after news on Cohen and Manafort, but have gained ground since.

At 8:49 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 36 points, or 0.14 percent. S&P 500 e-minis were down 5.75 points, or 0.2 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 10.75 points, or 0.15 percent.

Shares of Target rose 6.4 percent in premarket trading after the retailer posted quarterly results that beat estimates and raised its full-year profit forecast.

Walmart was flat, while higher oil prices pushed fellow Dow Industrial members Exxon and Chevron up 0.6 percent and 0.8 percent, respectively.

Lowe’s dropped 1 percent after the home improvement retailer missed analysts’ estimates for same-store sales and trimmed its full-year forecast.

Tire maker Goodyear slumped 5.5 percent after German rival Continental slashed its 2018 sales and margin forecast on weak demand.

Existing homes sales data is expected at 10 a.m. ET. (Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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