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US stocks began the day modestly lower as anxiety over geopolitical risks tempered sentiment and as investors await the start of the US earnings season, which kicks off in earnest on Thursday.

The S&P 500 was down 0.2 per cent to 2,349.85 in a broad decline with just consumer staples in the green. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 0.1 per cent to 20,624.61 and the Nasdaq Composite was little changed at 5,862.67.

Shares in energy companies failed to advance on the back of modest gains in oil prices after Opec said its output – based on secondary sources – dropped 152,700 b/d to 31.9m b/d last month, led by declines in Libya, Nigeria, the UAE and Iran, as investors keep an eye on the US crude stockpile report due at 10:30 am.

West Texas Intermediate, the US crude marker, was up 0.3 per cent to $53.56 a barrel, while Brent, the global benchmark, rose 0.3 per cent to $56.39 a barrel.

Markets were watching for developments on the geopolitical front as US secretary of state Rex Tillerson meets with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, while also keeping an eye on developments in the French election and risks surrounding Syria and North Korea.

And the US fear index, which hit its highest level since the election on Tuesday, rose 0.89 points to 15.69.

Haven assets were little changed with the yield on the US 10-year Treasury, which moves inversely to price, was up 0.2 basis points to 2.3 per cent. Meanwhile, gold prices were flat at $1,274 a troy ounce.

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