Thursday September 8th


US futures hold nearly flat as ECB leaves rates unchanged

U.S. stock index futures traded flat on Thursday as traders digested developments in Europe, where the latest monetary policy meeting of the European Central Bank (ECB) took place. The ECB kept benchmark interest rates unchanged at zero and maintained its quantitative easing program at its current levels. President Mario Draghi is due to hold a press conference at 8:30 a.m. ET. The pan-European Stoxx 600 Index was down 0.3 percent. On the data front in the U.S., initial jobless claims fell 4,000 to 259,000, with consumer credit due at 3:00 p.m. ET. Japan's Nikkei 225 closed down 0.32 percent, or 53.67 points, at 16,958.77 as the yen remained relatively strong. Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 finished down 0.71 percent, or 38.45 points, at 5,385.8. The benchmark's energy subindex shed 1.38 percent, the materials subindex lost 1.43 percent and the heavily-weighted financial subindex fell 0.44 percent. Mainland China's Shanghai composite closed up 0.15 percent, or 4.674 points, at 3,096.602 and the Shenzhen composite finished up 0.27 percent, or 5.527 points, at 2,050.8. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index was up 0.72 percent during Asian trade. South Korea's benchmark Kospi closed up slightly at 0.09 percent, or 1.85 points, at 2,063.73. Oil prices rose more than 1.5 percent on Thursday after U.S. industry data showed a large drawdown in crude stocks, reflecting the temporary impact of an Atlantic storm. U.S. crude stocks fell 12.1 million barrels last week, data from the American Petroleum Institute showed after the market settled on Wednesday, compared with expectations for an increase of around 200,000 barrels. Benchmark Brent crude oil was up 64 cents a barrel at $48.62 by 7:27 a.m. ET, after settling up 72 cents on Wednesday. U.S. light crude was up 77 cents at $46.27 a barrel, having ended the previous session up 67 cents. Gold edged higher on Thursday on a weaker dollar, with investors digesting the outcome of a European Central Bank policy meeting. "There are just not enough (assets) for the ECB to buy. If we see more buying, it will give a fillip to gold," said Jeffrey Halley, business development and market strategist with OANDA Asia Pacific. "As long as the dollar remains weak, we can see gold test $1,350 and make its way up to $1,375-80 levels," he said. Spot gold was up 0.2 percent at $1,347.09 an ounce. U.S. gold futures rose 0.2 percent to $1,351.40.