Friday March 18th


Futures higher as oil rises; Fed speakers eyed

U.S. stock index futures indicated a higher open on Friday as oil prices extended recent gains, ahead of scheduled remarks from Federal Reserve policymakers. Ahead of the afternoon's scheduled oil rig count, U.S. crude oil futures for April delivery traded more than 2 percent higher above $41 a barrel. Fed speakers on Friday include Federal Reserve Bank of New York President William Dudley, who will give opening remarks at a New York Fed Conference on "Supervising Large, Complex Financial Institutions." Eric Rosengren, Boston Fed President, is set to participate in a late morning panel discussion at the conference on "Defining the Objectives and Goals of Supervision." In Frankfurt, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard is due to give a keynote speech at the ECB International Research Forum on Monetary Policy. Furthermore, Friday's trade could likely see more volatility due to quadruple witching, the quarterly expiration of three related classes of options and futures contracts, as well as individual stock futures options. On the data front Friday will see consumer sentiment released at 10:00 a.m. ET. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei closed down 1.25 percent, while the Shanghai Composite in China closed 1.72 percent higher. In Europe, the pan European Stoxx 600 Index was up about a quarter of a percent. U.S. oil prices briefly rose above $41 a barrel Friday, supported by expectations of a production freeze by major exporters and dollar weakness that have pushed prices towards a fourth straight weekly gain. Brent crude's front-month contract was up 74 cents at $42.28 a barrel. U.S. crude gained 71 cents to $40.91. The benchmark had jumped by 4.5 percent to close the previous session at $40.20. Gold edged down on Friday, as the dollar steadied from a five-month low, but it remained on track to end the week on a firmer note after the Federal Reserve scaled down rate hike expectations. Spot gold was down 0.6 percent at $1,249.20 an ounce, while U.S. gold fell 1.2 percent to $1,250.40 an ounce. Spot gold was up around 0.4 percent on the week.