There seems to never be a shortage of trade-related headlines and it's beginning to feel like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates in that "you never know what you're going to get."
What market participants got today was an acknowledgment that the Commerce Department has begun an investigation into whether auto imports are a threat to national security. That news came on the heels of a Wall Street Journal report suggesting the Trump administration is considering an auto import tariff of as much as 25%.
In related news, China is reportedly going to cut its tariffs on a number of imported consumer goods starting July 1.
What any of this does ultimately to the U.S. trade balance remains to be seen, yet today's participants don't exactly appear to be in a celebratory mood over trade matters.
The S&P futures are down five points and are trading 0.2% below fair value. The Nasdaq 100 futures are down 10 points and the Dow Jones Industrial Average futures are down 57 points.
Things have quieted down some from yesterday's late rally effort, which was spurred on by a belief that the FOMC Minutes for the May meeting had some dovish undertones. That view was tied to the acknowledgment in the minutes that "...a temporary period of inflation modestly above 2 percent would be consistent with the Committee's symmetric inflation objective."
The key takeaway from that statement for market participants is that it seemed to imply that the Federal Reserve may not go so far as to raise the fed funds rate a total of four times this year or, perhaps, even three times.
To be sure, it was an interpretive palliative for a market that needed a headline cure on Wednesday from the aches and pains of the trade headlines.
The stock market, however, still doesn't have a spring in its step. The basis for why that is can be tied to the political uncertainty, yet it's fair to consider as well that there just might not be a lot of interest getting involved right now in front of a three-day weekend.
So, the weakness might simply be a byproduct of buyers being absent from the action.
That looks to be the case from a broad standpoint, yet the 10% surge in shares of Williams-Sonoma (WSM) following its earnings report indicates that buyers do still have some pinpoint interest when there is favorable news.
By the same token, so do sellers. Shares of Best Buy (BBY) are down 5.8% after topping first quarter sales and earnings expectations. Reportedly, there is some disappointment that Best Buy didn't raise its full-year guidance following the result.
In other developments, North Korea has sounded a threat again that it might pull out of the June 12 summit as it took umbrage to a remark from Vice President Pence who said North Korea could end up like Libya if it doesn't make a deal.
The initial claims report for the week ending May 19 was a bit weaker than expected, showing an 11,000 increase in claims to 234,000 (Briefing.com consensus 220,000). Even so, that is the 168th straight week initial claims have held below 300,000 and won't do anything to upset the favorable perspective on the initial claims trend.