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Wall St Set to Open Lower on Global Growth Fears

Markets Reuters

Wall Street was set to open lower on Thursday as investors worried about weak global growth and the uncertainty surrounding the Federal Reserve's plans to hike interest rates this year.

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Minutes from the Fed's March meeting released on Wednesday pointed to concerns about the central bank's limited ability to tackle a global economic slowdown, reducing the odds of a rate increase before June.

While the Fed has projected two rate increases this year, the market is pricing in a near 60-percent chance of a hike in December, according to CME Group's FedWatch Program.

The central bank's caution put pressure on the dollar as investors sought safety in the yen.

"I suspect that what we're seeing here is a little market jitters due to the fact that the dollar continues to weaken," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial in New York.

"I think we will just stay in a mixed-to-holding pattern for the next day or two until the earnings season begins to move into full gear next week," Cardillo said.

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First-quarter earnings at S&P 500 companies are expected to decline 7.4 percent, according to Thomson Reuters data.

At 8:32 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 76 points, or 0.43 percent, with 26,122 contracts changing hands. S&P 500 e-minis were down 10 points, or 0.49 percent, with 242,468 contracts traded. Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 19 points, or 0.42 percent, on volume of 26,057 contracts.

Fed Chair Janet Yellen, who has urged caution on raising rates, is slated to speak on monetary policy along with former central bank chairmen in New York later in the day.

The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits fell to 267,000 last week, beating the fall to 270,000 estimated.

Wall Street closed higher on Wednesday, boosted by gains in healthcare and energy shares.

Oil held steady near $40 a barrel as a rise in Iraqi exports offset gains from an unexpected fall in U.S. stockpiles.

Valeant Pharmaceuticals shares were up 6.7 percent at $36.47 premarket after the company got approval from its lenders for an amendment and waiver to its credit facility.

Yahoo slipped 2.3 percent to $35.82 after Re/code reported that the Internet company expects sharp decline in revenue and profit for 2016.

Bed Bath & Beyond was up 3 percent at $50.27 after strong quarterly results prompted price target upgrades.

(Reporting by Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)