The S&P 500 has risen about 5 percent so far in 2017, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average up 4 percent, mainly on signs of an improving economy and promises by President Donald Trump to cut corporate taxes and reduce financial regulations.
Now, with a strong fourth-quarter earnings season mostly complete, many investors say they need concrete signs of progress from Trump to justify more gains.
In his first solo news conference on Thursday, Trump again offered little details on his policy plans.
“Tax reforms are going to be as complicated as the repeal and replace (of the Affordable Care Act) and the markets may well think that the timing of the tax reform is going to be dragged out,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Equity Capital Markets in New York.
The lack of key economic data and a long weekend due to the Presidents Day holiday on Monday is also likely to keep investors from taking new positions, with trading volumes likely to be thin, on Friday.
“At the very best I think we will trade sideways today,” Hogan said.
Dow e-minis were down 74 points, or 0.36 percent at 8:30 a.m. ET (1330 GMT), with 29,956 contracts changing hands.
S&P 500 e-minis were down 8 points, or 0.34 percent, with 164,642 contracts traded.
Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 11.25 points, or 0.21 percent, on volume of 26,969 contracts.
The Dow managed to close at a record high for the sixth straight session on Thursday, but losses in energy shares caused the S&P to snap a seven-day winning streak.
Banks stocks, which have outperformed other sectors in the so-called “Trump trade”, dropped in premarket trading as investors booked profits.
Bank of America fell 1.1 percent, while Wells Fargo and Citigroup were lower by just under 1 percent.
Dow component UnitedHealth dropped 3.3 percent to $158.20 after the Justice Department joined a whistleblower lawsuit against the health insurer.
Kraft Heinz jumped 4.9 percent to $91.55 after it offered to buy Unilever. Despite rejecting the offer, Unilever’s U.S.-listed shares surged more than 11 percent.
Mondelez, rumored to be a Kraft acquisition target, fell 4.9 percent to $41.08.