Thursday August 31st


Futures point to a higher open as Wall Street wraps up August

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Thursday, as investors geared up for a slew of economic data, while keeping a close eye on oil and the political space. Thursday also market the last day of trading in August. Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 55 points, while S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures advanced 5.5 points and 12.75 points, respectively. Entering Thursday's session, the Dow was on track to post a slight monthly gain, while the Nasdaq was up 0.3 percent in August. The S&P, however, was down 0.5 percent in the time period. On Thursday, investors were greeted by a cluster of new data. Weekly jobless claims totaled 236,000, matching estimates, while the so-called core personal consumption expenditures increased 1.4 percent in July on a year-over-year basis. The core PCE is the Federal Reserve's preferred measure of inflation, and it's lagging the central bank's 2 percent target. Pending home sales data are set for release at 10 a.m. ET. Sticking with the U.S., Hurricane Harvey continues to weave uncertainty into markets, as investors continue to debate how much of an impact the natural disaster will have on the economy and certain sectors including energy and insurance. Gasoline futures for September delivery hit $2 per gallon, while crude prices remained stable. Crude markets remained weak after sharp losses in the previous session. The closure of so many U.S. refineries has resulted in a slump in demand for the most important feedstock for the petroleum industry. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 7 cents at $46.03 per barrel. The contract ended Wednesday's session down 1 percent. International Brent crude rose 35 cents to $51.21 a barrel. The contract fell by over 2 percent during the previous session. Meanwhile, geopolitics will continue to remain a dominant theme, after markets showed signs of turbulence earlier this week as tensions rose between the U.S. and North Korea. On Tuesday, it was revealed that North Korea had fired a ballistic missile which passed over Japan – a move which was met with criticism from leaders worldwide. However, tensions have eased somewhat, after President Donald Trump said that "all options were on the table" when it came to the future relationship between the Asian country and the West. Yet on Wednesday, Trump took the conversation further on Twitter to state that "talking is not the answer" when commenting on resolving tensions with North Korea. Elsewhere, Thursday will see the final day of the third round of Brexit negotiations in Brussels, where chief negotiators are set to deliver their statements on the progress of the talks between the European Union and the U.K. Overseas, European stocks were trading higher in morning trade, while markets in Asia closed relatively mixed to higher. Japan's Nikkei 225 rose 0.72 percent, or 139.7 points, to close at 19,646.24, with gains seen across automakers and most tech stocks, as the dollar strengthened against the yen. Meanwhile, South Korea's Kospi erased 0.38 percent, or 9.1 points, to end at 2,363.19. Greater China markets were mixed. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index retreated 0.53 percent by 3:24 p.m. HK/SIN as China bank stocks weighed on the index. On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite slipped 0.08 percent to close at 3,360.9959 while the Shenzhen Composite gained 0.311 percent to close at 1,944.9391. Gold prices was mixed on Thursday as the dollar gained ground after data showed strong growth in the United States, but losses were capped by rising security concerns created by tensions on the Korean peninsula. The U.S. currency rose after data showed the U.S. economy grew at an annual three percent in the second quarter, making dollar-denominated gold more expensive for holders of other currencies. Spot gold was flat at $1,308.88 an ounce, but on track for a near 3 percent rise this month. U.S. gold futures was flat at $1,313.90 an ounce.