Monday February 29th


Futures try for gains as Street eyes oil

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a flat to slightly higher open on Monday, shaking off some pressure from China overnight. WTI was up more than 1 percent above $33 a barrel, while brent traded more than 1.5 percent higher near $35.70 a barrel. European equities moved off their sessions lows on Monday, with the STOXX Europe 600 flat after China's central bank announced further stimulus measures. Stocks have found some support towards the end of this month, with some key economic data due this week likely to provide some insight into whether markets can hang onto gains in March. The week kicks off with the Chicago purchasing managers index at 9:45 a.m. ET, followed by pending home sales at 10:00 a.m. and the Dallas Federal Reserve survey at 10:30 a.m. Manufacturing and non-manufacturing figures from the Institute of Supply Management, due Tuesday and Thursday respectively, will also be closely watched, as will Friday's jobs report. "Friday's labor market report is expected to report a further notable pickup in nonfarm payrolls, with our expectations for an increase of around 220,000 in February to leave the unemployment rate unchanged at a near-eight-year low of 4.9 percent," said economist at Daiwa Capital Markets, Emily Nicol. Friday's jobs report, which is the last big piece of data ahead of the Fed's March meeting. U.S. markets could also be sensitive to global reactions to Chinese PMI manufacturing data Tuesday. China's central bank, the People's Bank of China, has cut further the reserve requirement ratio, the amount of cash the country's banks have to hold, in an attempt to calm investor jitters over the world's second largest economy. The PBOC cut the ratio by 0.5 percentage points after the country's markets closed Monday. The cut, which comes into effect Tuesday, means that most large Chinese banks will have a reserve ratio of 17 percent, Reuters reported. Markets in China, Japan and Hong Kong tumbled Monday, with renewed concerns over China's economic fundamentals and the deluge of economic data due this week dragging stocks. On the Chinese mainland, the Shanghai composite pared some losses to close down 79.38 points, or 2.87 percent, at 2,687.82, after earlier trading down as much as 4.63 percent. The Shenzhen composite slid 93.18 points, or 5.36 percent to 1,643.35. The recovery in China's property market may be driving some of the stock sell-off, Dow Jones reported, saying capital may be fleeing the stock market as interest in home buying increases. The Japanese benchmark index, the Nikkei 225, gave up early gains Monday, closing down 161.65 points, or 1 percent, at 16,026.76, after earlier trading up as much as 1.5 percent. Last week, the index added about 1.39 percent. Gold edged up on Monday and looked set to log its best monthly performance in four years, bolstered as turmoil in stock markets drove safe-haven demand. Bullion has rallied about 15 percent this year as investors have sought safety in the metal as concerns over the global economy hit share markets. The rally has also been spurred by expectations the Federal Reserve will not raise U.S. rates this year. Spot gold had gained 0.48 percent to $1,228.13 an ounce, after dropping 1 percent on Friday on strong U.S. economic data.