The start of a new week is dawning, yet the futures market is in a sunset mode at the moment. The S&P futures are down nine points and are trading 0.4% below fair value. The Nasdaq 100 futures are flat and the Dow Jones Industrial Average futures are down 52 points.
There isn't much corporate news of note to account for the less-than-sunny disposition. By and large, the cloudy skies are being attributed to lingering concerns about a possible trade war breaking out and the inconclusive Italian election.
The latter has weighed a bit on the euro, but before anyone gets too carried away with the Italian election result, which is expected to lead to a hung parliament and perhaps a long period without a governing coalition, bear in mind that most European markets are trading higher today while European sovereign bonds have seen only modest gains.
Italy's FTSE MIB (-0.8%) and its 10-year note (+6 basis points to 2.02%) are notable exceptions for good reason, but evidently the rest of Europe isn't looking too bothered at this point by an election outcome that was expected.
On a related note, it was politically comforting in the EU to hear that the CDU and SPD parties in Germany agreed on their governing coalition, thereby removing any leadership uncertainty in Europe's largest and most influential economy.
The Italian election, therefore, is an interesting news item, but it isn't the most important overhang on the market this morning. That distinction goes to trade war concerns, which emanate from President Trump's intention to impose tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum.
The president tweeted this morning that those tariffs will only come off if a new and fair NAFTA agreement is signed.
There is heightened uncertainty, therefore, on the political and trade fronts that is standing in the way of buying efforts.
Generally speaking, though, the seesaw action of the stock market is standing in the way of market participants on the buy side and the sell side. There hasn't been much conviction of late, because the market's volatile demeanor has created some questions about the longevity of the bull market, which will be nine years old this week.
Bull markets don't die of old age, yet they do slow down the older they get as valuations get stretched and new ailments like rising interest rates interfere with their normal functioning.
Things look a bit dysfunctional ahead of the open to a week that is going to produce an important market-moving item at the end of the week in the form of the February Employment Situation Report.
Today's lone economic release of note is the ISM Services Index for February (Briefing.com consensus 58.8; prior 59.9), which will be released at 10:00 a.m. ET.