Syria and North Korea concerns stall out Wall Street

IN THE NEWS TODAY

U.S. stock futures were rather flat this morning after Wall Street reversed Monday's slight gains with modest declines on Tuesday. However, investors were still striking a cautionary tone amid concerns about tensions in Syria and North Korea. (CNBC)

Gold was higher again this morning, hitting its highest level since November after investors bid up the precious metal in breakout session Tuesday in a flight to safety against an uncertain international backdrop. (CNBC)

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, meeting in Moscow with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson today, said he wants to know the real intentions of the U.S. concerning Syria. (CNBC)

"We're not going into Syria," Trump told Fox Business News. Last week, the U.S. launched missile strikes against a Syrian government airfield in retaliation for Bashar Assad's alleged poison gas attack against civilians.

The White House is accusing Russia of engaging in a cover-up of the Syrian government's role in the attack, saying U.S. intelligence confirmed the Assad regime used sarin gas on its own people. (NY Times)

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer apologized for remarks he made, saying Adolf Hitler "didn't even sink to using chemical weapons" against his own people like Assad. (NBC News)

Russian President Vladimir Putin said, in an interview broadcast today, the levels of trust between Moscow and Washington have deteriorated since Trump took office. (Reuters)

The FBI secured a warrant last year to monitor the communications of Carter Page, a former Trump campaign advisor. Page was previously an investment banker in Moscow. (Washington Post)

Following last week's face-to-face meeting at Mar-a-Lago, Chinese President Xi Jinping told Trump in a phone call late Tuesday a resolution of tensions with North Korea should be achieved by peaceful means. (Reuters)

Trump meets NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House today, to talk about how to strengthen the alliance to cope with challenges to national and international security. (NPR)

President Trump said he intends to repeal Obamacare before moving on to tax cuts. Trump told Fox Business News he plans to complete health-care and tax reform by the end of the year.

In a far cry from its dire warnings about Trump's threat to global stability in February, Fitch reaffirmed the AAA credit rating for the U.S. and raised its outlook for gross domestic product growth. (CNBC)

The federal hiring freeze imposed by Trump in January is set to be lifted today. But agencies were instructed by White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney to consider replacing any vacancies. Mulvaney also spoke to CNBC about the Trump agenda.

Republicans held on to a Kansas House seat in the first congressional election since Trump's victory, beating back a spirited Democratic campaign hoping for a big anti-Trump backlash. (AP)

United (UAL) CEO Oscar Munoz, in his latest statement, finally issued an apology amid outrage over passenger Dr. David Dao being dragged Sunday evening off an overbooked flight. (CNBC)

Warren Buffett probably cringed more than most when he saw the United video because it could be costing his Berkshire Hathaway millions of dollars as the largest United shareholder. (MarketWatch)

Volkswagen, in a bid to win back American customers after its diesel emission scandal, is offering a six-year, 72,000 mile warranty on its new 2018 Atlas and 2018 Tiguan sport utility vehicles that go on sale later this year. (Reuters)

Samsung's voice-controlled virtual assistant Bixby, marketed as one of the highlights in the feature-rich Galaxy S8 handsets, won't be fully ready when the company begins to globally ship the new phones later this month. (CNBC)

Uber is losing its communications chief in the middle of a public-relations crisis for the ride-hailing company. In a statement, Rachel Whetstone did not cite a reason. She joined Uber in 2015 from Google. (WSJ)

Lyft has raised $600 million in a new round of funding, valuing the Uber rival at $7.5 billion. In January 2016, Lyft raised $1 billion, half of which came from General Motors. (Reuters)

BY THE NUMBERS

The government reports March import and exports prices at 8:30 a.m. ET. Delta Air Lines (DAL) reports earnings before the bell this morning. Dallas Fed President Rob Kaplan speaks at 10 a.m. ET. The monthly federal budget statement is out at 2 p.m. ET.

Home buyers dominated the mortgage market last week, while refinancers sat on the sidelines despite the lowest interest rates of the year. Total mortgage application volume rose 1.5 percent. Refis were unchanged.

IDC said global shipments of PCs increased for the first time on an annualized basis since the first quarter of 2012. It noted the PC shipments increased 0.6 percent year over year during the first quarter of 2017.

Bitcoin is up nearly $100 in the past week, hitting levels not seen since mid-March after Japan legalized the cryptocurrency as a payment method and Russia is seeking to regulate it too.

STOCKS TO WATCH

Starting a week from today, Wal-Mart (WMT) will give customers a discount on 10,000 online-only items if they pick them up in-store. Meanwhile, the retail giant is cutting hundreds of jobs to reduce costs.

Neurocrine Biosciences (NBIX) shares were soaring about 20 percent in premarket trading after the FDA gave the green light to the company's movement disorder drug.

BHP Billiton (BHP) rejected activist investor Elliott Management's overhaul proposals. The mining giant called the hedge fund's offer "flawed," saying it would involve costs far beyond any benefits.

Dutch paint and chemical giant Akzo Nobel is reporting Elliott Management and suitor PPG Industries, based in the U.S., to regulators for possibly sharing "sensitive" information.

Activist investor John Paulson is set to leave the AIG (AIG) board. The departure, reported by the FT, is expected to be announced in a shareholder proxy statement in the next few days.

WATERCOOLER

Britain's Daily Mail has agreed to pay Melania Trump an undisclosed sum and issue an apology after the news group published an article about her previous professional work as a model. (Reuters)

Bill O'Reilly announced he's taking a vacation. There's talk inside the network that last night's show could be his last, in the midst of a sexual harassment scandal and advertiser boycott. (New York Magazine)