Thursday January 4th


US futures rise ahead of open, as Wall Street looks to key data

U.S. stocks futures pointed to a higher open on Thursday ahead of several data releases. Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 86 points, while S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures gained 4.75 points and 17.50 points, respectively. The first week of the year has already shown 2018 to be beneficial for U.S. markets, with the S&P 500 closing above 2,700 for the first time Wednesday, and other stocks reaching all-time highs during trade. A slew of economic data is set to be released today. At 8:15 a.m. ET, the ADP national employment report is set to come out, followed by jobless claims at 8:30 a.m. ET. Services purchasing managers' index (PMI) data will then come out at 9:45 a.m. ET; all before the all-important nonfarm payrolls data, due out Friday. Meanwhile, investors are likely to be digesting the latest minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC). On Wednesday, the U.S. central bank's minutes revealed that the final interest rate hike of Janet Yellen's era as Fed chair was met by a divided central bank; however, the scales are now tipped towards the more hawkish voices. At the December meeting, the bank approved to increase interest rates by a quarter-point, although concerns over inflation still remain. Geopolitics continues to linger at the back of investors' minds, as rising tensions between the U.S. and North Korea continue to put global markets on edge. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump tweeted that his "nuclear button" was "much bigger and more powerful" than the one controlled by North Korea's Kim Jong-Un. Trump's tweet comes after the North Korean leader said in his New Year's Day address that the isolated state's nuclear weapons could reach anywhere in the U.S. Elsewhere, oil prices hit their highest in over 2.5 years, supported by geopolitical tensions seen in Iran. Brent crude, the international benchmark, was unchanged at $67.84 a barrel at 1151 GMT and traded as high as $68.27. U.S. crude rose 20 cents to $61.83 and also touched the highest since May 2015. Gold steadied on Thursday after hitting a 3-1/2 month high in the previous session as profit-taking set in amid worries over looming U.S. rate hikes, while palladium touched its highest ever levels on tight supplies and bets on growing demand. Spot gold edged up 0.1 percent at $1,313.68 an ounce at 1107 GMT, while U.S. gold futures dropped 0.3 percent to $1,314.80 an ounce. Major Asian markets closed mostly higher on Thursday, on the back of the stronger lead from Wall Street following positive economic data. Markets in Japan finished their first day of trade in the new year with strong gains while South Korean stocks were weaker than their regional peers. Japan's Nikkei 225 hit levels not seen in 26 years, jumping 3.26 percent, or 741.39 points, to close at 23,506.33 on its first day of trade after a long New Year weekend. Meanwhile, the Kospi slid into negative territory, with the index sliding 0.8 percent to finish the session at 2,466.46 after trading higher at the open. Greater China markets extended gains. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 0.58 percent by 3:05 p.m. HK/SIN, with investors eyeing an eighth straight day of gains. On the mainland, markets saw moderate gains. The Shanghai Composite added 0.52 percent to end at 3,386.5 and the Shenzhen Composite advanced 0.36 percent to close at 1,940.96.