Wall Street set for subdued open ahead of first presidential debate

(Reuters) – Wall Street’s main indexes were set for a muted open on Tuesday as investors stayed away from making big bets ahead of the first presidential debate, while awaiting a reading on consumer confidence.

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President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden will square off later in the day in their first 90-minute televised debate in Cleveland, Ohio, five weeks before the election. Polls show Biden leading Trump nationally and in a number of key battleground states.

“It’s end of the month, most of the rebalancing is in the rear-view mirror and the market has its eyes set on the debate tonight for an indication of how policy is going to look in the next 12 months,” said Thomas Hayes, managing member at Great Hill Capital LLC in New York.

Goldman Sachs analysts said a victory for Biden in the election, along with the Democratic party controlling the Senate and the House of Representatives, would be slightly beneficial to profits for S&P 500 firms through 2024.

Among sectors, a stronger “green energy” push under a Biden administration could support alternative energy stocks, while a Trump victory could spell additional relief for companies that benefited from the president’s corporate tax cuts.

“This is the most important thing to watch because the potential change in tax plan could really have a significant impact on the stock market,” Hayes said.

Speculation around the election has partly pushed up volatility .VIX on Wall Street, with the S&P 500 .SPX ending sharply higher on Monday on bargain hunting for some laggard sectors following a deep slump earlier in September.

While the benchmark index is on track for its first monthly decline since the pandemic-related lockdowns in March, it is still set for its two best back-to-back quarters since 2009. The tech-heavy Nasdaq .IXIC is on track for its biggest two-quarter jump since 2000.

At 8:27 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis 1YMcv1 were down 35 points, or 0.13%, S&P 500 e-minis EScv1 were down 4.75 points, or 0.14%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis NQcv1 were down 37 points, or 0.32%.

Consumer confidence data for September, due at 10 a.m. ET, could add to signs of a slowing economic recovery.

Among stocks, Sorrento Therapeutics SRNE.O jumped 7.3% in premarket trading after the drugmaker said both its COVID-19 antibody candidates showed potent neutralizing activities against the coronavirus in a study in Syrian golden hamsters.

Fitbit Inc FIT.N gained 4.3% after Reuters reported Alphabet’s GOOGL.O unit Google is poised to win EU approval for its $2.1 billion acquisition of fitness tracker maker with its latest concessions to address EU antitrust concerns.

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