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US STOCKS-Wall St lower as investors assess G20 shift; oil falls

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* U.S. crude falls over 1 pct * Chicago Fed head to speak at 1:10 p.m. ET * Sprouts Farmers up after report on Albertsons merger talk * Indexes down: Dow 0.07 pct, S&P 0.17 pct, Nasdaq 0.12 pct (Updates to open) By Tanya Agrawal March 20 (Reuters) – U.S. stocks were lower on Monday asinvestors assessed the G20’s decision to drop a pledge to keepglobal trade free and open and as oil prices fell. Financial leaders of the world’s biggest economies made onlya token reference to trade in their communique on Saturday,acquiescing to an increasingly protectionist United States afterthe two-day meeting failed to yield a compromise. The dollar fell to a six-week low, while European stockswere lower. The U.S. stock market has been on a roll since the electionof Donald Trump as president as investors bet on his plans toreform the tax code and cut regulation. The S&P 500 has risenabout 11 percent since early November. “Given the slow progress in implementing tax cuts andinfrastructure spending plans, markets will soon realize thatthey are ahead of themselves,” said Hussein Sayed, chief marketstrategist at FXTM. “I’m still quite confident that U.S. protectionist policieswill do more harm than good.” Analysts are also worried that the Trump administration isspending too much of its political capital in an effort to passa Republican-proposed healthcare bill, which may leave itwanting for support when it tries to reform the tax code. At 9:37 a.m. ET (1337 GMT), the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 15.21 points, or 0.07 percent, at 20,899.41. The S&P 500 was down 4.06 points, or 0.17 percent, at2,374.19. The Nasdaq Composite was down 6.97 points, or 0.12percent, at 5,894.03. Six of the 11 major S&P sectors were lower, with the energyindex’s 0.86 percent fall leading the decliners. Oil fell around 1 percent as investors continued to unwindbets on higher prices after record cuts last week because ofconcerns that growing U.S. oil output could hamper an OPEC-ledproduction cut deal. Exxon and Chevron were down about 0.6percent. The U.S. Federal Reserve’s conservative rate guidance isalso weighing on investors, who will keep an eye on FederalReserve Bank of Chicago President Charles Evans’ speech later inthe day. Evans, a voting member this year on the Fed’s rate-settingcommittee, will speak on the economy at 1:10 p.m. ET. In a television interview earlier on Monday, Evans said theFed is on track to raise interest rates twice more this year,and it could be more or less aggressive depending on inflationand fiscal policies. The week is expected to see a host of Fed speakers,including Fed Chair Janet Yellen on Thursday. Last week, the central bank raised interest rates for thefirst time this year but stuck to its outlook for two more hikesthis year, instead of three expected by the market. Sprouts Farmers Market was up 3.9 percent at $22.75after Bloomberg reported that grocer Albertsons Cos heldpreliminary talks to merge with the natural and organic foodsgrocer. U.S.-listed shares of Deutsche Bank fell 2.8 percentto $18.50 after the German lender disclosed terms of its nearly$9 billion cash call. Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,648to 859. On the Nasdaq, 1,577 issues fell and 770 advanced. The S&P 500 index showed eight new 52-week highs and no newlows, while the Nasdaq recorded 32 new highs and 11 new lows. (Reporting by Tanya Agrawal in Bengaluru; Editing by AnilD’Silva and Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

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