Wall Street lost ground on Wednesday as weak US economic data and simmering geopolitical tensions spooked buyers away from the equities market, despite a string of generally positive third-quarter earnings reports. Technology shares, led by Microsoft, weighed heaviest, pulling all three major US stock averages into the red.

US retail sales contracted in September for the first time in seven months, according to the Commerce Department, in a sign that cracks might be spreading from the troubled manufacturing sector to the broader economy. US-China trade uncertainties increased after the US House of Representatives riled Beijing by passing pro-democracy legislation in support of Hong Kong.

President Donald Trump said he would probably not sign any trade deal before he meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the upcoming APEC Forum in Chile, but said a partial trade deal was being formalised. Analysts currently expect S&P 500 third-quarter earnings to fall by 3 per cent, which would mark the first year-on-year contraction since the earnings recession that ended in 2016. However, of the 43 S&P 500 companies to have posted third-quarter results so far, 86 per cent have beaten expectations. Bank of America rose 1.5 per cent after posting its third-quarter profit beat due to growth in advisory fees and loan book expansion.

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