March 2, 2018 / 1:58 PM / 6 months ago

US STOCKS-Futures lower as Trump sets stage for trade war

* J.C. Penny slumps nearly 10 pct after disappointing quarter

* Trump tweets: "Trade wars are good, and easy to win"

* Futures slump: Dow 272 points, S&P 22 points, Nasdaq 85 points (Adds comments, details; updates prices)

By Ankur Banerjee

March 2 (Reuters) - Wall Street was set to fall for a fourth day on Friday, as investors worried about the likelihood of a global trade war following President Donald Trump's promise to impose import tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Europe promised to act firmly and China said it would defend its interests appropriately if Trump followed through with his pledge to place a 25 percent tax on steel and 10 percent on aluminum next week.

Trump's announcement drove a third straight 1 percent decline for the Dow and S&P 500 on Thursday, putting the blue- chip index into negative territory for the year, and futures pointed to almost a 1 percent fall at opening.

"The prospects of a trade war is growing and unless Trump's economic team can persuade the president to retreat from imposing tariffs, the markets would head for another melt down," First Standard Financial Chief Market Economist Peter Cardillo said.

World stocks tracked the Wall Street selloff into the close and tumbled on Friday, with investors flocking towards traditional safe havens including government bonds, Japan's yen and gold. Spot gold prices rose 0.50 percent to $1,322.76 per ounce.

By 8:29 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis down 272 points, S&P 500 e-minis down 22 points and Nasdaq 100 e-minis down 85 points.

Wall Street fell for the first time in 11 months in February, hit by worries that rising interest rates and bond yields would cool the economy and finally begin to draw money out of equities after an almost decade-long rally.

"The (tariff) announcement has also come at a time when investor sentiment is already fragile," Oanda Senior Market Analyst Craig Erlam wrote in a note.

"For someone so obsessed with stock market performance, he's taking a big gamble with these tariffs, the benefits of which are questionable."

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on Thursday cooled speculation that the U.S. central bank was set to accelerate with monetary tightening by saying there were no signs the world's largest economy was overheating.

But New York-Fed chief William Dudley sent another shiver through markets later in the day by saying that he regarded four rate hikes this year as in line with the "gradual" definition the Fed has been giving.

Until this week, interest rate futures were pricing in only three hikes.

J.C. Penney Co Inc shares plunged 10 percent after the department store chain missed same store sales estimates.

Foot Locker shares were also down about 10 percent after the footwear retailer posted disappointing quarterly results. (Reporting by Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)

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