Friday February 23rd


Dow set to rise more than 150 points, interest rates slip

U.S. stock index futures pointed to sharp gains ahead of Friday's open, with investors awaiting more comments from Federal Reserve officials on the state of the economy. Around 8:15 a.m. ET, Dow futures indicated a rise of 186 points at the open. The Nasdaq and S&P 500 futures also pointed to a positive open for their respective markets. Investor anxiety surfaced earlier this week after minutes from the Federal Reserve's latest meeting revealed that members saw an uptick in inflation and increased economic growth as reasons for the central bank to continue raising interest rates gradually. The minutes pushed the 10-year U.S. note yield to a four-year high above 2.95 percent. On Friday, the yield traded off that high, near 2.884 percent. With little economic data scheduled to be published Friday, investors will be awaiting key remarks from leading members of the U.S. Federal Reserve. A U.S. monetary policy forum will be taking place in New York, where four major Fed officials are due to speak on economic policy, in front of other policymakers, academics and market economists. As turmoil surrounding gun control and alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election continues, President Donald Trump will be meeting with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the White House, where the two leaders will likely comment on economic growth and fighting terrorism. Asian stocks closed higher on Friday as the dollar edged higher after slipping in the last session. Gains in the region were led by South Korea's Kospi, which bounced back to rise more than 1.5 percent after slipping in the last session. The Nikkei 225 edged up 0.72 percent, or 156.34 points, to close at 21,892.78. Gains in Seoul were more convincing, with the benchmark Kospi index advancing 1.54 percent to close at 2,451.52. Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 1.13 percent by 3:00 p.m. HK/SIN. Markets on the mainland closed with moderate gains: The Shanghai composite rose 0.63 percent to close at 3,289.24 and the Shenzhen composite reversed earlier losses to close higher by 0.18 percent. Oil prices steadied on Friday near two-week highs struck in the previous session, as rising U.S. oil output and exports countered OPEC's output curbs and a dip in Libyan production. Brent crude, the global benchmark, was down 4 cents at $66.35 at 8:13 a.m. ET (1313 GMT) and was on track for a roughly 2 percent gain for the week. U.S. crude rose 3 cents to $62.80, also on pace for a roughly 2 percent weekly gain. Gold prices slipped on Friday and were headed for their sharpest weekly drop in 2-1/2 months as the dollar strengthened during the week. Spot gold was down 0.14 percent at $1,329.59 an ounce as of 8:35 a.m. EST, heading for a fifth session of fall in six. It has shed 1.6 percent so far this week, its biggest since the week ended Dec. 8, 2017. U.S. gold futures were down 0.11 percent at $1,331.20 per ounce. "We remain somewhat cautious on gold over the short-term given that we think the dollar rally is still not over, especially in the light of U.S. Treasury yields remaining elevated," said INTL FCStone analyst Edward Meir.