US stocks open lower as focus shifts to Federal Reserve meet

Traders work on the main trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the closing bell in New York on June 17, 2015.
Traders work on the main trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the closing bell in New York on June 17, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Wall Street opened slightly lower on Thursday as investors were wary of taking big bets ahead of the crucial U.S. Federal Reserve meeting next week.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 9.62 points, or 0.06 per cent, to 16,243.95, the S&P 500 lost 2.04 points, or 0.11 per cent, to 1,940 and the Nasdaq composite dropped 5.17 points, or 0.11 per cent, to 4,751.35.

Global financial markets have been rattled in recent weeks by fears that China's slowdown could be a drag on sluggish global growth, prompting some investors to bet that the U.S. central bank will delay a rate hike until the end of the year. "What is China going to do? That is the biggest unknown for people at the moment," said Randy Frederick, managing director of trading and derivatives at Charles Schwab.

S&P 500 e-minis were down 12.75 points, or 0.66 per cent, with 474,702 contracts traded at 8:37 a.m. ET (8:37 pm Singapore time). Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 24.5 points, or 0.58 per cent, on volume of 61,636 contracts. Dow e-minis were down 109 points, or 0.67 percent, with 57,059 contracts changing hands.

Apple shares were down 0.3 per cent at US$109.85 (S$155.466) premarket after closing down about 2 per cent the previous day when its new offerings underwhelmed investors.

Apple and a fall in oil dragged down Wall Street by more than 1 percent on Wednesday.

Investors will continue to keep an eye on U.S. data for clues on the Fed's next course of action when it meets on Sept. 16-17.

The number of Americans filing new applications for unemployment benefits fell last week, suggesting a moderation in job growth in August was an aberration. Initial claims fell by 6,000 to 275,000.

Data scheduled to be released on Thursday includes wholesale inventories data for July at 10 a.m. ET, which is expected to have increased 0.3 per cent, compared with a 0.9 per cent rise in June.

Palo Alto Networks was up 5 per cent at US$173.39 after the cyber security company reported its strongest revenue growth in 10 quarters and forecast better-than-expected growth in the current quarter.

Krispy Kreme Doughnuts fell 16.4 per cent to US$14.83, a day after the doughnut chain cut its 2016 profit forecast.

Lululemon Athletica was down 7.3 per cent at US$59.32 after the yogawear retailer's gross margins continue to be under pressure as it spends more on product development and sourcing.