Thursday July 20th


Corporate earnings in the limelight on Wall Street; ECB in focus

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a slightly higher open on Thursday, as investors prepared to digest another batch of corporate earnings reports. In earnings news, Bay, Microsoft and Visa are some of the major names set to report. Blackstone, Travelers, Philip Morris and Polaris are among the companies that reported earlier on Thursday. Sticking with financial news, jobless claims fell 15,000 to 233,000. The Leading Indicators index is slated to come out at 10 a.m. ET. On the central bank front, the European Central Bank kept interest rates unchanged, as was widely expected. ECB President Mario Draghi is set to speak later in the morning. Meanwhile in oil, prices continued to fluctuate, as analysts offered assorted supply stances for the commodity ahead of an OPEC meeting next week, Reuters reported. At 8:30 a.m. ET on Thursday, U.S. crude was trading around $47.41, while Brent hovered around $50.08. Politics is likely to be at the back of investors' minds, as they keep an ear out for any news coming from the White House, in relation to health care and the Russia-linked scandal, which continues to rumble on. In Europe, bourses were mostly in the black during early trade, while Asia-Pacific markets finished trade on a relatively positive note. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 rose 0.62 percent, or 123.73 points, to close at 20,144.59 and South Korea's Kospi edged up by 0.49 percent, or 11.9 points, to end at 2,441.84. Mainland Chinese markets recorded moderate gains, with the Shanghai Composite advancing 0.44 percent, or 14.3577 points, to close at 3,245.3339 and the Shenzhen Composite trading higher by 0.485 percent, or 8.9171 points, to finish at 1,847.9740. The Hang Seng Index firmed to gain 0.34 percent by 3:16 p.m. HK/SIN after dipping below the flat line earlier in the session. Gold fell on Thursday as the European Central Bank's reaffirmation of its ultra-easy policy stance pushed the euro lower against the dollar, although moves were muted before a news conference by ECB chief Mario Draghi. Spot gold was down 0.3 percent at $1,236.89 an ounce at 1209 GMT, while U.S. gold futures for August delivery were 0.5 percent lower at $1,236.30 an ounce.