Hong Kong nerves keep Wall Street on edge By Reuters

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© Reuters. Traders work on the floor at the NYSE in New York

By Shreyashi Sanyal and Arjun Panchadar

(Reuters) – Wall Street inched lower on Wednesday as a congressional bill related to the Hong Kong protests stoked fears of more friction with China, even as another batch of positive earnings reports underscored a solid start to third quarter results.

Bank of America (N:), the second-largest U.S. bank by assets, rose 2.3% in premarket trading after beating Wall Street estimates for third-quarter profit as it earned more in advisory fees and grew its loan book.

PNC Financial Services Group Inc (N:) and Bank of New York Mellon Corp (N:) also gained about 1.5% after topping quarterly profit expectations.

The reports followed robust results on Tuesday from JPMorgan Chase & Co (N:) and Citigroup Inc (N:), showing consumer confidence remained strong despite recession fears that have led businesses to pull back on spending and borrowing.

Analysts have forecast a 3% drop in third-quarter earnings for companies, projecting their worst quarterly performance in nearly three years, according to Refinitiv data.

“We play this game every quarter where expectations are talked down and then there is roughly two-thirds of a surprise to the upside,” said Scott Brown, chief economist at Raymond James in St. Petersburg, Florida.

The prolonged trade war between the United States and China, however, has taken a toll on both global growth and financial markets this year.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday passed legislation related to pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. In response, China warned that bilateral relations would be damaged if the measures became law.

Conflicting reports on the state of Brexit talks also added to the mix.

At 9:01 a.m. ET, were down 42 points, or 0.16%. were down 6 points, or 0.2% and were down 22.5 points, or 0.28%.

United Airlines (O:) was up 2% after topping analyst estimates for quarterly profit, and increased its 2019 profit target.

Abbott Laboratories (N:) fell 3.3% after the medical device maker trimmed the upper end of its full-year earnings forecast and missed quarterly revenue estimates.

Its results were in sharp contrast to those from Johnson & Johnson (N:) and UnitedHealth Group Inc (N:), which reported upbeat results on Tuesday and raised their full-year profit forecasts.

Tech heavyweights Netflix Inc (O:) and International Business Machines (N:) are due to report later on Wednesday.

McKesson (N:), AmerisourceBergen (N:) and Cardinal Health (N:) jumped between 3% and 6% after a report that the drug distributors were in talks with state and local governments to settle thousands of opioid lawsuits for $18 billion.

Data on Wednesday showed a fall in U.S. retail sales for the first time in seven months in September.

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