Wednesday October 19th


Earnings front and center on Wall Street; Fed Beige Book eyed

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a flat to slightly higher open on Wednesday, as investors got ready to wade through another influx of earnings reports, while monitoring for news on the Federal Reserve. Earnings are set to be front and center, as big U.S. brands are set to report. Out of the group, investors will be watching for financial news out of American Express, eBay, and Mattel. Halliburton posted mixed quarterly results, missing on revenue but beating on earnings. Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley shares rose 1 percent before the bell after easily beat profits estimates. Investors will also be paying attention to the U.S. central bank, as key Fed officials speak on Wednesday, before and after the release of its Beige Book, due out at 2 p.m. ET. San Francisco Fed President John Williams is set to speak at a conference hosted by Rutgers University around 8:45 a.m. ET. The event is expected to explore the issues impacting opportunities for minorities and women in the financial services industry. Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan will also chime in, speaking at the Mayor's International Luncheon in Fort Worth, Texas, which takes place in the early afternoon. New York Fed President William Dudley will be at The Lotos Club discussing New York's economic history, at 7:45 p.m. ET. Elsewhere on the data front, housing starts fell 9 percent in September. Mortgage applications rose 0.6 percent lat week. When it comes to oil, prices climbed higher on Wednesday, boosted by falling U.S. inventories and declining output in China. Around 8:36 a.m. ET, U.S. WTI stood around $51 per barrel, while Brent hovered around $52.30. European stocks were under pressure, while Asia-Pacific indexes ended mostly higher overnight. Chinese equity markets reacted little; the Shanghai composite was flat, while the Shenzhen composite slipped 0.18 percent. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 ended up 0.21 percent, or 35.30 points, at 16,998.91, while across the Korean Strait, the Kospi edged up 0.02 percent, or 0.51 point, to 2040.94. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index slipped 0.22 percent by afternoon trade. In the previous session, U.S. markets closed higher. Gold rose on Wednesday as the dollar weakened and Treasury yields ticked lower amid uncertainty around the timing of a U.S. rate increase. Spot gold gained 0.6 percent to $1,270.40 an ounce. U.S. gold futures were up 0.7 percent at $1,271.80 an ounce. Spot prices had shed about 7 percent over the past three weeks, as markets re-priced the likelihood of a Federal Reserve's rate hike in December. The metal is highly sensitive to rising rates, which lift the opportunity cost of holding non-yielding assets.