Thursday March 24th


Dow futures fall 100 points; oil, data eyed

U.S. stock index futures indicated a lower open on Thursday morning as a decline in commodity prices weighed. Dow futures fell more than 100 points, while U.S. crude oil futures traded more than 2 percent lower below $39 a barrel. The U.S. dollar index held mildly higher, with the euro near $1.116. Treasury yields held little changed, with the 2-year yield at 0.86 percent and the 10-year yield at 1.87 percent as of 8:41 a.m. ET. In economic news, weekly jobless claims came in at 265,000. February durable goods orders declined 2.8 percent. Non-defense capital goods orders excluding aircraft, a closely watched proxy for business spending plans, decreased 1.8 percent after advancing by a downwardly revised 3.1 percent in January, Reuters said. Markit Services PMI is due at 9:45 a.m. Ahead of the open, St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard said the Fed's next interest rate hike "may not be far off" provided the economy evolves as expected. Bullard is a voting member of the Federal Open Market Committee and in an interview Wednesday was the latest Fed official to suggest the U.S. central bank could raise rates as early as April. To traders, the comments from Bullard and several other Fed officials contrast with the dovish message sent after the Fed's last meeting. Last week, the Fed took no action on rates and slightly downgraded its view on the economy. In Europe, the pan European Stoxx 600 Index was down 1.22 percent, as the search for those suspected of carrying out a series of bombings in Brussels continues. Asia markets ended lower Thursday, amid fresh declines in oil prices and concerns the U.S. Federal Reserve may hike interest rates sooner than expected. Japan's Nikkei 225 ended down 108.65 points, or 0.64 percent, at 16,892.33, while South Korea's Kospi index fell 9.15 points, or 0.46 percent, to 1,985.97. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index ended lower by 269.62 points, or 1.31 percent, at 20,345.61. Chinese markets finished lower, with the Shanghai composite off 48.84 points, or 1.62 percent, at 2,961.11, while the Shenzhen composite was lower by 26.42 points, or 1.38 percent, at 1,876.10. Oil fell below $40 a barrel on Thursday, heading for the biggest weekly slide in two months, dented by record-high stockpiles in the United States and a stronger dollar. The U.S. government's Energy Information Administration (EIA) said crudestockpiles climbed by 9.4 million barrels last week - three times the 3.1-million-barrel build forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll. Brent crude futures were down 72 cents at $39.75 a barrel by 8:12 a.m. (1212 GMT). They finished Wednesday down $1.32, or 3.2 percent and are almost 3 percent lower this week, on track for their biggest weekly slide since mid-January. U.S. crude futures were down 82 cents at $38.97 a barrel. On Wednesday, U.S. crude closed down $1.66, or 4 percent, the sharpest one-day drop for the front-month contract since Feb. 11. Earlier this week, both benchmarks had been up more than 50 percent from multi-year lows hit in January. Spot gold slipped to its lowest in four weeks on Thursday and was poised for its biggest weekly loss since early November as the prospect of more U.S. interest rate rises than previously expected stoked a recovery in the dollar. Spot gold dipped by 0.6 percent to $1,212.20 an ounce, its weakest since Feb. 26, in early trade before cutting losses at $1,220.84, up 0.3 percent.