Wednesday February 10th


US futures higher after Yellen testimony

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a sharply higher open on Wednesday after a very volatile week so far, as investors digested the written testimony from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. In her prepared remarks, Yellen said that, if the economy were to disappoint, a lower path of Fed funds rates would be appropriate. She also said that near-term inflation remains low due to falling energy prices, but that the FOMC expects inflation to reach 2 percent in the medium term. Dow futures held about 110 points higher after the testimony's release, after briefly gaining 150 points. Yellen is scheduled to testify in front of Congress Wednesday and Thursday. But her bigger audience will be world financial markets, rattled by the fact that the Fed's forecast continues to show rate hikes as markets gyrate over fears of a weakening world outlook and divergent central bank maneuvering. She begins speaking before the House Committee on Financial Services at 10 a.m. ET Wednesday. Other data due for release on Wednesday includes the Federal Budget at 2:00 p.m. ET. "This will be one of the more closely watched testimonies in some time as the market tries to gauge whether March is still in play for another Fed rate increase. Given the lack of any real calming in the markets, we think the odds of Yellen heavily promoting a March move are slim," said economist at RBC Capital Markets, Cathal Kennedy. European stocks rallied on Wednesday ahead of Yellen's testimony, after two days of harsh selling, where banks caught the brunt of the bearish sentiment. The pan-European STOXX 600 surged over 2 percent, with battered lenders Deutsche Bank and Unicredit leading the way, up some 13 percent and 11 percent, respectively. The Nikkei added the 5.4 percent losses seen on Tuesday, closing down 2.3 percent on Wednesday as banking and commodities stocks continued to get hammered. Major earnings on Wednesday include Cisco Systems, Pioneer Natural Resources, Tesla Motors, Twitter, Whole Foods, HubSpot and iRobot after the bell. Oil prices bounced back, after Iran said it was open to cooperation with Saudi Arabia, partly recovering from an 8 percent fall in the previous session as global stocks sold off and supply worries remained. The front-month Brent contract was up 53 cents, or 1.75 percent, higher at $30.85 a barrel early on Wednesday. The contract fell for a fourth straight session on Tuesday to end down some $2.56, or 7.8 percent. U.S. crude for March delivery was 56 cents higher at $28.50 a barrel, after falling 5.9 percent on Tuesday to settle $1.75 lower. Gold edged down further on Wednesday from a 7-1/2-month high as European shares rose, dimming safe-haven demand and investors awaited guidance on the pace of further U.S. rate increases. "The gold market will listen carefully to what Janet Yellen has to say (as) it is not factoring in a 100 percent probability of a Fed hike until well into 2017," Danske Bank senior analyst Jens Pedersen said. Spot gold was down 0.49 percent at $1,182.15 an ounce. The metal climbed to $1,200.60 on Monday, the highest since June 22, 2015, benefiting from a weakening dollar and lower appetite for risk amid worries about European banks.