Thursday February 23rd


US futures little changed; Treasury Secretary Mnuchin hints at significant tax reform

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a flat-to-higher open on Thursday as traders digested remarks from new Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin. Mnuchin said on CNBC's "Squawk Box" that he wants to see "very significant" tax reform passed before Congress' August recess. "We want to get this done by the August recess. We've been working closely with the leadership in the House and the Senate and we're looking at a combined plan," he said. Investors have been looking for clues about when the Trump administration will push through tax reform. U.S. equities have skyrocketed since President Donald Trump's election on hopes of tax reform, deregulation and government spending. On the earnings front, Hormel Foods is among companies that reported before the bell. Baidu, Gap, Hewlett Packard Ent., Intuit and Nordstrom are among companies set to report after the bell. On the data front, initial jobless claims are set to come out at 8:30 a.m. ET, with the FHFA (Federal Housing Finance Agency) home price index set to be released at 9:00 a.m. Thursday will also see the auction of $28 billion in 7-year notes. In Europe, the pan-European Stoxx 600 Index was around 0.05 percent higher on Thursday. Markets in Asia were mostly lower on Thursday, following a mixed close in U.S. equities overnight as minutes from the Federal Reserve's previous meeting hinted that a rate hike is coming "fairly soon." In Japan, the Nikkei 225 finished near flat at 19,371.46, while across the Korean Strait, the Kospi was fractionally higher at 2,107.63. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was off by 0.38 percent in afternoon trade, while Chinese mainland markets were mostly lower. The Shanghai composite closed down 10.13 points, or 0.31 percent, at 3,251.08 and the Shenzhen composite finished near flat at 1,991.98. In oil markets, Brent crude traded at around $56.79 a barrel on Thursday, up 1.7 percent, while U.S. crude was around $54.48 a barrel, up 1.66 percent. Gold prices on Thursday hit a three-month high after the minutes of the latest Federal Reserve policy meeting further dampened expectations of an interest rate hike in March, lowering U.S. bond yields and stalling upward momentum in the dollar. Spot gold was up 0.75 percent at $1,246.358 per ounce, while U.S. gold futures rose 1.17 percent to $1,247.70.