Wednesday March 23rd


Earnings, new home sales in focus on Wall Street

U.S. stock index futures signaled a flat-to-higher open on Wall Street on Wednesday, as global markets appeared to shake off Tuesday's terror attacks in Brussels and trade thinned in the buildup to the Easter holiday. Wall Street closed mixed on Tuesday, following the attacks in which at least 30 people were killed, and for which the so-called Islamic State has claimed responsibility. European stocks rose early on Wednesday, while Asian markets ended mostly lower on the day, but remained resilient. "Markets' little more than passing reaction to the Brussels terror attacks and increasing indifference to economic data (other than on a selective post-hoc rationalization basis), and central bank actions and utterances should be a matter for particular concern," Marc Ostwald, market strategist at ADM Investor Services International, said in a note on Wednesday. U.S. stock index futures were narrowly mixed as of 8:24 a.m. ET, while Treasury yields were lower and the U.S. dollar index was higher. Oil held lower, just above $41 a barrel. Overnight, Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker said in a Reuters report the central bank should consider another interest rate hike as early as next month if the U.S. economy continues to improve as it has of late. While he supported last week's decision by his colleagues to leave policy unchanged, "there is a strong case that we need to continue to raise rates," he said in the article. The day's schedule is short on first-division data with U.S. new home sales and crude oil inventories among the highlights. Weekly mortgage application volume decreased 3.3 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. On the earnings front, General Mills reported adjusted 65 cents earnings per share for the latest quarter, 3 cents above forecast, but revenue came in light of expectations. PVH Corp, which owns U.S. apparel brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, is also due to report on Wednesday. February is expected to show an improvement in new home sales due to improvements in the labor market amid a low interest rate environment. The crude inventories number could cause some volatility in oil markets, although Brent and WTI appear to have bottomed at $40 per barrel for now. Asia markets ended mostly lower Wednesday, but remained relatively resilient after a terrorist attack in Belgium Tuesday. The Japanese benchmark Nikkei 225 index closed down 47.57 points, or 0.28 percent, at 17,000.98, after finishing nearly 2 percent higher Tuesday. Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi ended down 0.08 percent, or 1.69 points, at 1,995.12. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index lost 0.48 percent in late afternoon trade. Chinese markets closed up, with the Shanghai composite adding 11.42 points, or 0.38 percent, at 3,010.79. The Shenzhen composite finished up 21.74 points, or 1.15 percent, at 1,902.53. Oil prices eased on Wednesday after figures from an industry group showed U.S. crude stockpiles rose last week by more than expected, reinforcing concerns that a global glut continues unabated. U.S. crude futures fell 33 cents to $41.12 a barrel by 0945 GMT. Prices struck a 2016 high of $41.90 in the previous session. The contract has rebounded more than 50 percent after hitting its lowest since 2003 in February. Brent crude was down 25 cents a barrel at $41.54, still up more than 50 percent from a multi-year low of $27.10 hit in January. Spot gold hit its lowest in a week on Wednesday, with the impact of a stronger dollar outweighing a slight swell in the metal's safe-haven appeal after attacks on an airport and a rush-hour metro train in Brussels. Spot gold had slipped 1.5 percent to $1,228.50 an ounce.U.S. gold futures fell 1.5 percent to $1,229.