Monday March 21st


Wall Street eyes oil in shortened trading week

U.S. stock index futures indicated a mixed open on Monday, after five straight weeks of gains, as investors focused on the price of oil and monitored comments by Federal Reserve members. U.S. crude oil futures for April delivery were about 1 percent lower near $39 a barrel as of 8:25 a.m. ET. After the settle, the contract rolls to May, which was near $41 a barrel in morning trade. Brent oil futures fell in early trade on Monday but bounced slightly and helped global "risk-on" sentiment to pick up. In Europe, stocks were flat in mid-morning trade after opening the session lower. Chinese markets finished up, with the Shanghai composite ending up 64.97 points, or 2.20 percent, at 3,020.12, while the Shenzhen composite added 49.16 points, or 2.67 percent, to 1,886.37. Market watchers pointed to China's loosening of controls over margin lending as a catalyst for the moves. In Japan, the benchmark Nikkei 225, which shed 1.25 percent Friday to close at 16,724.81, was closed for a public holiday. The index came under pressure late last week, following renewed strength in the Japanese yen against the dollar. Back in the U.S., traders will also be reacting to fresh comments from Federal Reserve members. On Monday morning, Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker said U.S. inflation will likely accelerate in the coming years and move toward the Federal Reserve's 2 percent target, according to Reuters. Later in the session, Atlanta Fed President Dennis Lockhart speaks on the economic outlook and monetary policy at 12.40 p.m. ET. At 8.30 p.m. Monday evening, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard speaks on economic inequality. In corporate news, IHS reported better-than-expected quarterly results. Mattress Firm is also due to report after the bell. Apple is holding a new product launch. The tech giant is widely expected to unveil a new 4-inch iPhone, a new 9.7-inch iPad, new Apple Watch bands and some software updates at an event Monday at its Cupertino, California, headquarters. On the data front, the Chicago Fed national activity index declined to minus 0.29 in February from 0.41 in January. Existing home sales are due at 10 a.m. ET. Markets will only be open for four days this week ahead of the Good Friday holiday. Gold fell on Monday, extending losses for a third day as the dollar strengthened, but prices remained underpinned by expectations that the ultra-low interest rate environment will persist on a global level. The dollar is up 0.1 percent against the euro after falling for three successive weeks, most recently after U.S. Federal Reserve policymakers revised down the number of times they expect to raise interest rates this year to two from four. Spot gold was down 0.71 percent at $1,245.66 an ounce, while U.S. gold futures for April delivery were down $7.60 an ounce at $1,246.70.