March 19, 2018 / 1:06 PM / a month ago

US STOCKS-Nasdaq futures drop sharply as Facebook data leak weighs

* Facebook shares slide after reports of data misuse

* Nasdaq futures down 76.5 pts, or about 1 pct

* Dow futures drop 110 pts and S&P futures off 12 pts

* Fed seen raising rates Wednesday, outline future path

* Apple down after Nomura’s bearish note on iPhone demand (Adds comment, details, updates prices)

By Sruthi Shankar

March 19 (Reuters) - Nasdaq stock index futures dropped sharply on Monday as reports of Facebook’s user data being misused weighed on technology stocks and the broader market also bracing for signals from the Federal Reserve for the future path of interest rate hikes.

While it is near certain that the Fed will raise rates by a quarter basis point on Wednesday, investors are more focused on whether policymakers think economic conditions are strong enough for four hikes this year, one more than the markets expect.

Shares of Facebook fell about 4 percent in premarket trading in the wake of reports that the personal data of 50 million users were misused by a political consultant, prompting a review by the company and expressions of concern by several U.S. lawmakers.

“I don’t think anyone’s expecting any surprises (from the Fed) ... but the bigger factor has been the surrounding the big technology companies, particularly Facebook,” said Rick Meckler, president of investment firm LibertyView Capital Management in Jersey City, New Jersey.

“Just a re-examination of whether or not there are issues out there for all of the tech companies, regulatory or otherwise. They’ve been such leaders that it’s spilling over into in the general markets.”

Technology stocks have powered the stock market’s rally over the past year and have been the best performing among the 11 S&P sectors.

By 8:25 a.m. ET, Nasdaq 100 e-minis declined 76.5 points. Dow e-minis were down 110 points and S&P 500 e-minis fell 12 points.

Concerns about faster rate hikes were at the heart of the stock market’s sell off in early February. While the market has pulled back since, healthy economic data has done little to ease jitters of a fourth rate hike this year.

The Fed will raise rates this week, all 104 economists polled by Reuters during March 5-13 said, with three more hikes to follow this year, driven by a solid labor market underpinning optimism.

That is more than the three hikes, including one in March, that economists had expected, according to an earlier poll.

“I don’t think investors are particularly fixated on whether it’s three or four. The direction seems pretty clear and there will be higher rates,” said Meckler.

Apple slipped half a percent after brokerage Nomura Instinet said its checks showed there was little improvement in demand for iPhones this year and lowered estimate for the smartphone’s sales.

The main U.S. indexes posted losses last week due to fears that President Donald Trump’s tariff plans would spark retaliation from its trading partners, especially China, and on political uncertainties after high-profile White House exits.

The tariff issues are likely to dominate a gathering of finance leaders at a two-day meeting of the Group of 20 finance ministers this week. (Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D’Souza)

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