Thursday March 23rd


Wall Street expected to open slightly higher ahead of health-care vote

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a slightly higher open on Thursday as traders eyed the release of data and a key vote in the House. The House is set to vote on the Republican health care bill that, if signed into law, would repeal and replace Obamacare. Investors have been keeping a close eye on the vote as a prolonged battle on the health-care front could delay market friendly measures, including tax reform and fiscal stimulus. Expectations for such policies had been a boon for the market's postelection rally. On the data front, initial jobless claims rose 15,000 to 258,000, above the expected 240,000. New home sales are set to come out at 10:00 a.m. ET. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen is set to give opening remarks at the Federal Reserve System Community Development Research Conference in Washington, D.C., at 8:45 a.m. ET. Market watchers will be keenly awaiting any indications on the trajectory of the economy and rates. In Europe, the pan-European Stoxx 600 Index was around 0.28 percent higher on Thursday. On Wednesday, a suspected terrorist drove a car into pedestrians and then stabbed a police officer inside the gates of the U.K. Parliament in London. Four people, including the suspect and police officer, are dead, and around 40 people are injured. On the earnings front, Accenture reported better-than-expected earnings. GameStop and KB Home are among companies set to report after the bell. In oil markets, Brent crude traded at around $50.68 a barrel on Thursday, up 0.1 percent, while U.S. crude was around $48.10 a barrel, up 0.12 percent. Asia markets closed mostly higher on Thursday after U.S. equities ended mixed ahead of a key health care vote in Congress seen as a proxy of U.S. President Donald Trump's mandate. Japan's Nikkei 225 wavered for most of the session and fell below the 19,000 mark, but closed up 0.23 percent or 43.9 points at 19,085.31. The Kospi index ended up 0.2 percent or 4.4 points at 2,172.72. Mainland Chinese shares finished flat to positive. The Shanghai composite closed up 0.11 percent or 3.7 points at 3,248.91 and the Shenzhen composite was nearly flat at 2,038.59. Gold prices on Thursday held below a 3-week peak hit in the prior session, as the dollar recovered from seven-week lows and markets looked to see if U.S. President Donald Trump could push through a healthcare bill. Spot gold was down 0.1 percent at $1,247.30 per ounce at 0725 GMT. On Wednesday, it touched its strongest since Feb. 28 at $1,251.26. U.S. gold futures were down 0.1 percent at $1,247.90.