Thursday November 17th


US stock futures little changed after data deluge; Yellen testimony in focus

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a flat on Thursday as traders digested comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, as well as a host of data and earnings. Yellen is set to appear before the Congress in Washington, D.C. at 10 a.m. ET. In prepared remarks, Yellen said a rate hike could be "appropriate relatively soon," adding there are dangers to waiting too long to tighten monetary policy. She was scheduled to testify on the economy at the hearing, but is now expected to be asked about President-elect Donald Trump's plans to cut taxes and launch a hefty infrastructure spending program. The Fed itself is also likely to be a topic of discussion. Separately, New York Fed President William Dudley, Fed Governor Lael Brainard and Chicago Fed President Charles Evans are all set to speak Thursday. On the data front, housing starts soared more than 25 percent in October, while weekly jobless claims dropped to their lowest level since November 1973. Meanwhile, October CPI rose 0.4 percent, in line with expectations. On the earnings front, Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Staples reported before the bell. Applied Materials, Gap, Intuit and Williams-Sonoma are among companies due to report after the bell. In Europe, the pan-European Stoxx-600 index was flat on Thursday. In Asia, the Shanghai Composite in China closed 0.11 percent higher, while the Nikkei in Japan closed unchanged. Oil prices rose on Thursday as expectations of an OPEC deal to limit production outweighed growing evidence of global oversupply and rising inventories, particularly in the United States. Brent crude oil was up 57 cents a barrel at $47.20 by 8:44 a.m. ET (1344 GMT). U.S. light crude was up 59 cents at $46.16. U.S. crude inventories rose by 5.3 million barrels in the week to Nov. 11, well above forecasts of an increase of 1.5 million barrels, data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration showed on Wednesday. Gold clawed higher on Thursday as U.S. Treasury yields and the dollar eased while palladium extended its outperformance over sister metal platinum. "A lot of what's been driving gold has been the U.S. bond market and we've seen rates stabilise now," said analyst Tom Kendall at ICBC Standard Bank in London. "I think the overreaction in fixed-income markets is coming to an end, and that means that the sell-off and overreaction in gold is also coming to an end." Spot gold has shed about 4 percent since the U.S. election and slid 11 percent since touching a two-year peak of about $1,375 in early July. Spot gold was up 0.4 percent at $1,230.27 an ounce at 7:30 A.M. EDT, after dropping 0.25 percent in the previous session. U.S. gold futures rose 0.4 percent to $1,229.70 an ounce.