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US stock-index futures pointed to a lower open on Wall Street amid jitters over the economic outlook that intensified after a weak reading on American auto sales.

Ahead of the opening bell in New York, S&P 500 futures slipped 0.2 per cent to 2,351.3, Dow Jones Industrial Average and Nasdaq 100 futures fell by the same margin to 20,557 and 5,422.3, respectively.

Light vehicle sales fell to the lowest annualised rate in two years last month at 16.53m units, according to a compilation by Wards Auto of reports that were released throughout the day on Monday. The disappointing reading underscores jitters among some investors that the pick-up over the past few months in economic activity may be losing momentum.

“The unexpected dip in March auto sales is the latest hard data release to suggest that the Trump reflation trade may have run its course. Auto sales have been a big part of the upside momentum in the economy,” said Steven Ricchiuto, chief US economist at Mizuho.

Themos Fiotakis, a strategist at UBS, echoed that sentiment, noting that, “most of US growth acceleration may be behind us”. If the economy grows at a “high and stable rate, equities may deliver much lower (positive) returns,” he said.

A handful of economic reports are on the calendar on Tuesday that could help to shed further light on the situation. Among them are readings on US factory orders, and on the trade balance. The closely followed monthly jobs report is due out on Friday.

In fixed income, Treasuries stabilised after a sharp rally in the previous session that sent yields falling. The benchmark 10-year yield was recently steady at 2.325 per cent.

The US dollar climbed by 0.2 per cent against six world currencies. US crude oil edged up by 0.4 per cent to $50.45 a barrel.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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