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* Tesla, Nio up on report China not making cut to NEV subsidies
* Banks kick off fourth-quarter earnings season
* Hexcel, Woodward rise on $6.43 bln merger announcement
* Futures up: 0.35%, S&P 0.33%, Nasdaq 0.45% (Adds comment, updates prices)
By Sruthi Shankar
Jan 13 (Reuters) – The expected signing of a trade deal between the United States and China kept U.S. stock futures near record levels on Monday, while investors looked forward to the start of the fourth-quarter earnings season.
An easing of Middle East tensions and signs that the Phase 1 U.S.-China trade agreement will be inked powered Wall Street to record highs last week, despite an underwhelming December jobs report. The two sides are set to sign the agreement in Washington on Wednesday.
“Not only do we not have the exact details, but there is some concern about translation of the contract,” said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin, Texas.
“The difficulty is we ARE not going to know anything until Wednesday, but speculation is not enough for markets to go down.”
“We’re clearly still in a bull market and the uptrend is still intact.”
The other major center piece this week will be earnings from big banks JPMorgan Chase & Co, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs Group Inc and Wells Fargo & Co as they kick off the fourth-quarter reporting season from Tuesday.
Analysts expect profits at S&P 500 companies to drop 0.6% in a second straight quarterly decline, according to Refinitiv IBES data, partly due to a strong quarter a year ago and also to the drag from energy and industrials, which have borne the brunt of the trade war.
At 8:48 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 101 points, or 0.35%. S&P 500 e-minis were up 10.75 points, or 0.33% and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 40.5 points, or 0.45%.
The main indexes were set to open slightly below record levels hit on Thursday, encouraged by signs the United States and Iran backing off further military actions in a conflict following the U.S. killing of a prominent Iranian general.
Tesla Inc and Nio Inc were up 2.3% and 5.1%, respectively, in premarket trading after a report said China would not make significant cuts to subsidies for new energy vehicles (NEV) this year.
Oppenheimer also raised its price target on Tesla to $612 from $385, saying the company is in a position to “support sustainable cash flows.”
Semiconductor stocks including Nvidia Corp, NXP Semiconductors and Western Digital Corp rose between 0.9% and 1.5% on positive brokerage actions heading into earnings.
Apparel retailer Lululemon Athletica Inc rose 2.7% after the company raised its quarterly sales and profit outlook, boosted by strong holiday season demand.
Shares of Hexcel Corp and Woodward Inc rose 6.3% and 1.7%, respectively, after the two Boeing suppliers said they would combine in an all-stock merger valued at $6.43 billion to create an integrated systems provider for the aerospace and industrial sectors. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Maju Samuel)