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Futures dip, mixed signals on US-China

US stock index futures are slightly lower, with mixed signals on trade and a row between Washington and Beijing over the Hong Kong protests fanning concern about the timing of a deal to end their tariff dispute.

A report on Thursday said China had invited top US trade negotiators to a new round of talks in Beijing, soothing investor nerves after suggestions on Wednesday the trade deal could slide into next year.

A US bill in support of Hong Kong, which President Donald Trump is expected to sign into law, also dulled the mood as China vowed strong measures to safeguard its sovereignty and security.

Wall Street ended the previous session in the red after a record recent run on an upbeat earnings season and expectations of the trade agreement, which Trump had said last month could be signed by mid-November.

Semiconductor companies with a sizeable revenue exposure to China fell pre-market, with Intel Corp logging the biggest drop among the few Dow Jones components active before the bell.

Apple Inc, on the other hand, edged up 0.4 per cent as Trump said he was considering whether to exempt the iPhone maker from tariffs on imports from China.

The next round of tariffs is due December 15 on Chinese goods, including holiday gift items such as electronics and Christmas decorations.

At 7.27 am local time, Dow e-minis were down 26 points, or 0.09 per cent. S&P 500 e-minis were down 3 points, or 0.10 per cent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 11.25 points, or 0.14 per cent.

Macy’s Inc slipped 5.9 per cent after the department store cut its full-year profit forecast blaming falling tourist numbers and weak mall traffic.

With the third-quarter earnings season drawing to a close, focus is shifting to M&A activity in corporate America.

Shares in TD Ameritrade Holding Corp jumped 25 per cent after CNBC reported bigger rival Charles Schwab Corp was in talks to buy the discount brokerage. Schwab shares gained 10.7 per cent.

Tiffany & Co gained 3.8 per cent as LVMH persuaded the jewellery chain to allow it to access its books after the French luxury group raised its bid to about $US16 billion ($A24 billion).

Applied Materials Inc slipped 3.6 per cent after UBS downgraded shares of the chip gear maker to “sell”.

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