Friday March 31st


Futures point to flat open; Wall Street on course for strong quarter

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a flat open on Friday as traders digested a batch of data. Personal income rose 0.4 percent in February, in line with expectations, while consumer spending rose 0.1 percent, below an expected increase of 0.2 percent. The PCE price index — an indicator of inflation — rose 2.1 percent year over year, while core PCE increased 1.8 percent from last year. While March has been a mixed month for stocks as the Republican-led bill to replace Obamacare failed to materialize, the first quarter has seen strong gains for the Nasdaq composite, which is up more than 9 percent. The S&P is up more than 5 percent and the Dow almost 5 percent higher. In Europe, the pan-European Stoxx 600 Index was around 0.1 percent lower on Friday morning. Asia markets finished mixed on the final day of trading in March, as investors await two expected executive orders by President Donald Trump which will tackle trade deficit and tariff enforcement. In China, the Shanghai composite closed up 12.36 points, or 0.39 percent, at 3,222.60 and Shenzhen composite added 6.89 points, or 0.34 percent, to 1,986.47. Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell 0.71 percent. Japan's Nikkei 225 closed down 153.96 points, or 0.81 percent, at 18,909.26, as the yen traded at 111.84 to the dollar at 3:03 p.m. HK/SIN, strengthening from an earlier low of 112.19. In oil markets, Brent crude traded at around $52.58 a barrel on Friday, down 0.72 percent, while U.S. crude was around $50.24 a barrel, down 0.2 percent. Gold was on track for a 7.9 percent quarterly rise on Friday, its best quarter in a year, as uncertainty over U.S. President Donald Trump's tax and investment plans and a series of elections in Europe fuelled demand for bullion as a safe haven. Spot gold was down 0.15 percent at $1,241 per ounce. U.S. gold futures fell 0.4 percent to $1,243.