Thursday March 31st


Wall Street eyes data, Fed speakers

U.S. stock index futures indicated a flat open on Thursday, the last trading day of the quarter, as investors looked ahead to data and several U.S. Federal Reserve speakers. New York Fed President William Dudley will speak on lessons from the financial crisis at 5 p.m. EDT, while Chicago Fed President Charles Evans will speak earlier in the day, at 9:30 a.m. EDT. On the data front, initial jobless claims came in at 276,000. Chicago PMI is due out at 9:45 a.m. Investors also digested the latest Challenger, Gray and Christmas jobs cut report, which showed employer layoffs eased 22 percent in March month over month. U.S. stock index futures held mixed, while Treasury yields edged off lows, with the 2-year yield near 0.75 percent and the 10-year yield near 1.83 percent as of 8:38 a.m. ET. The U.S. dollar index held lower, off about 0.4 percent, with the euro near $1.139 and the yen at 112.25 yen against the greenback. On Friday, investors will turn their eyes to the key March jobs report. According to a Reuters poll, economists expect the U.S. economy to have added 205,000 jobs in March. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei closed down 0.71 percent, while the Shanghai Composite in China closed 0.12 percent higher. In Europe, the pan European Stoxx 600 Index was down by 0.8 percent. Brent traded higher and U.S. crude seesawed on Thursday amid dollar weakness, though another rise in American crude stocks renewed concerns about global oversupply. The increase in U.S. inventories came despite seasonal refinery utilization hitting an 11-year high, while a decline in the dollar supported oil prices. A weaker greenback makes dollar-denominated commodities like crude more affordable to holders of other currencies. Brent crude futures rose 44 cents to $39.70 a barrel by 8:50 a.m. ET (1250 GMT). The front-month contract for U.S. crude futures was up 9 cents at $38.41 a barrel, after dropping to $37.57, the lowest since March 16. Gold rose on Thursday as a drop in equities boosted its appeal as an alternative asset, heading for its biggest quarterly gain in nearly 30 years as expectations that the Federal Reserve would press ahead with interest rate hikes receded. The metal is highly exposed to rising rates, which lift the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding assets while boosting the dollar. It fell 10 percent last year ahead of the first U.S. rate increase in nearly a decade in December. Spot gold was up 0.7 percent at $1,233.10 an ounce, while U.S. gold futures for June delivery were up $6.20 an ounce at $1,234.80. Gold has climbed 16 percent in the first three months of this year, its biggest quarterly rise since 1986, as concerns over global growth battered equities and sparked a wave of safe-haven buying.