Wednesday November 18th


Wall Street jittery ahead of Fed minutes

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a lower open on Wednesday ahead of the release of the minutes from the Federal Reserve's last meeting, which could shed some light on whether the central bank plans on raising interest rates next month. At the end of October, the Fed laid out some of what it would consider in December when deciding whether to move its target fed funds rate off zero for the first time in nearly seven years. This could be emphasized in the minutes, released at 2 p.m. ET. "The minutes might add to the stock of knowledge about the Federal Open Market Committee's (FOMC) reaction function ahead of December's meeting. We strongly doubt, however, that they will dim the likelihood of a rate hike next month, the market-implied probability of which still seems too low to us at only about two thirds," said Chris Scicluna, head of economic research at Daiwa Capital Markets. In Europe, equities traded lower Wednesday amid further security scares after the Paris attacks last Friday weigh on investor confidence. The pan-European STOXX 600 traded 0.6 percent lower, while French stocks sank over 1 percent after five people were arrested and at least one killed in a police raid on Saint-Denis, Paris early on Wednesday morning. Back in the U.S., as well as Fed minutes there are also a number of Fed officials due to speak Wednesday, including Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker. New York Fed President Bill Dudley, Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester and Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart are on a panel in the morning at the Clearing House Annual Conference in New York. Dallas Fed President Rob Kaplan speaks at noon on the economy and Fed policy, and former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke will be at the Economic Club of New York at noon. Oil could also remain a factor Wednesday. There is government inventory data expected at 10:30 a.m. ET, after American Petroleum Institute data Tuesday afternoon showed a small stockpile draw. U.S. crude futures traded up 60 cents higher to $40.67 a barrel early Wednesday. The gain followed an over $1 fall during the previous session. Brent crude rallied 2 percent, gaining 87 cents to trade around $44.42 per barrel. Besides the Fed minutes, traders will be watching housing starts and building permits, reported at 8:30 a.m. Retailers Target and Lowe's and Staples also report earnings before market open. Keurig Green Mountain, L Brands, NetApp and are all due after market close. Asian shares traded mixed on Wednesday, as investors remain cautious over the latest global geopolitical developments in the wake of Paris terror attacks. Nikkei finishes in positive territory, trims early gains. Japan's Nikkei 225 trimmed back some of its early gains as news about two Paris-bound flights from the U.S. being diverted due to security reasons. Japan Airlines shares were down 1.16 percent while ANA closed near flat as investors took in the news. Gold eked out small gains on Wednesday as another bomb scare in Europe and gunfire in Paris fuelled tentative safe-haven bids, but a firm dollar kept a lid on prices that hit their lowest in nearly six years earlier in the session. Silver tracked bullion, returning to positive territory after dropping to a 2-1/2-month low, while platinum languished at a seven-year low. Spot gold was up 0.07 percent at $1,071.4 an ounce at 0752 GMT, after falling to $1,064.95 earlier, the lowest since February 2010. U.S. gold futures for December delivery were up 0.11 percent at $1,069.7.