Wednesday February 21st


US stocks set for a weak open ahead of Fed minutes

U.S. stock index futures fell into the red ahead of Wednesday's open, extending losses seen in the previous trading session. Around 7 a.m. ET, Dow futures were down 31 points, indicating a drop of 35.75 points at the open. S&P 500 futures pointed to a decline of 2.6 points, while the Nasdaq 100 was tipped to open higher. Investor sentiment continued to be dampened prior to the Wall Street open, after U.S. markets closed sharply lower Tuesday, with the Dow finishing more than 250 points in the red. The negativity on Wall Street came after shares in Walmart sank, and concerns over a rise in interest rates continued to dwell. On the central banking front, the latest minutes release by the Federal Open Market Committee is due out at 2 p.m. ET, while Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari and Philadelphia Fed Patrick Harker are scheduled to deliver separate speeches. Earnings will continue to shake up sentiment Wednesday, as Delphi Technologies, Garmin, Wendy's, Boston Beer, Cheesecake Factory, Pandora Media and Roku are  due to report their latest financial figures. In data, the flash U.S. composite purchasing managers' index (PMI) at 9:45 a.m. ET, and existing homes sales at 10 a.m. ET. Politics will remain at the back of investors' minds as developments into Russia's alleged involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election rumble on. On Tuesday, an attorney who is the son-in-law of a Russian oligarch, Alex Van der Zwaan, pleaded guilty to lying to federal authorities investigating alleged links between Russia and the Donald Trump campaign. Oil prices fell on Wednesday, weighed down by a rebound in the U.S. dollar from three-year lows hit last week and by an expected rise in U.S. crude production. Brent crude futures were last down 21 cents at $65.04 a barrel by 8:11 a.m. ET (1311 GMT), while West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futuresfell 40 cents to $61.39 a barrel. The premium of Brent over WTI widened to almost $3.60 a barrel, having neared its narrowest in six months on Tuesday as concern about a bottleneck of Canadian crude imports underpinned U.S. futures. Asian stock indexes closed higher on Wednesday after a session of choppy trade in Japanese markets. More convincing gains were seen in Taiwan and Hong Kong markets. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index closed up 0.21 percent, or 45.71 points, at 21,970.81 after a session of choppy trade. Meanwhile, the Kospi edged up by 0.6 percent to close at 2,429.65. Gains in Hong Kong were more decisive, with the Hang Seng Indexrising 1.66 percent by 3:02 p.m. HK/SIN as financials led gains on the index. Markets in China remained closed for the Lunar New Year holiday. Gold steadied on Wednesday after its biggest one-day slide in 2-1/2 months as investors awaited the minutes of the Federal Reserve's latest policy meeting later for clues on the outlook for U.S. interest rates. Fresh gains in the dollar, however, kept prices under pressure, holding the metal near a one-week low. Spot gold was down 0.12 percent at $1,327.87 an ounce at 8 a.m. EST, little changed from late on Tuesday but off an earlier low of $1,325.20. U.S. gold futures for April delivery were down 0.1 percent an ounce at $1,329.90.