Stocks set fall after Steven Mnuchin’s odd statement fails to calm markets

Stock futures are getting hammered Wednesday as trade tensions between the United States and China mount.

US markets are open only a half day on Monday. That’s probably a good thing for anyone watching stocks on Christmas Eve.

Stocks are set to open lower, a day after an unusual statement by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who convened a series of calls on Sunday with the CEOs of the country’s biggest banks.

Mnuchin said the executives assured him their banks are healthy and have “ample liquidity” to lend to consumers and businesses. “Markets continue to function properly,” he said.

Stocks are on pace for their worst December since the Great Depression. On Friday, the Dow ended its worst week since 2008. The Nasdaq is in a bear market.

But few — if anyone — claimed markets weren’t working “properly” or that banks were low on cash.

Stock futures on Monday pointed to a decline of more than 150 points. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq were also set to open lower. Shares in JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Wells Fargo (WFC), Goldman Sachs (GS), Bank of America (BAC) and Citi (C) were all down between 1% and 2% in premarket trading.

Adding to the shaky start on Monday: The partial shutdown of the federal government will continue at least until Thursday, and possibly into January. Although the closure of some government services isn’t expected to hurt the economy, the inability of lawmakers and President Donald Trump to put politics aside to enact a budget is unnerving to investors.

“The confusion and disorder surrounding this week’s spending debate suggest fiscal deadlines in 2019 — including the debt limit deadline, which we expect to fall between August to October — could be more disruptive than they have been since the 2011-2013 period,” Goldman Sachs economists wrote in a research note.

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