Wednesday February 16th


Stock futures are down slightly after major averages snap 3-day losing streak

U.S. stock market index futures edged lower in morning trading Wednesday, after registering gains the previous day amid signs of tensions easing between Russia and Ukraine. Futures contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average were off by about 80 points, or 0.2%. S&P 500 shares dipped 0.2% and Nasdaq 100 futures eased about 0.2%. ViacomCBS was the biggest loser in early action Wednesday, with shares falling 6.5% premarket after the company said it is rebranding itself as Paramount Global to focus on streaming. At the same time, the company reported lower-than-expected quarterly earnings. Shares of Wynn Resorts rose 1.8% after the casino operator beat on revenue, though it posted a larger-than-expected loss per share. Markets have been driven largely by concerns over the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and the Federal Reserve’s plan to hike interest rates. “Traders continue to monitor the situation in Ukraine and look ahead to the Fed minutes release,” Sevens Report’s Tom Essaye said in a note Wednesday morning. In the most recent geopolitical developments, NATO officials accused Russia of massing troops at the Ukrainian border. Energy prices, which have been sensitive to the news, moved sharply higher Wednesday morning, with natural gas up about 5% and oil prices climbing more than 1%. President Joe Biden addressed the latest developments between Russia and Ukraine Tuesday afternoon, reiterating that the U.S. will defend NATO territory. “If Russia proceeds, we will rally the world,” he said, adding that Washington’s allies were ready to impose powerful sanctions that will “undermine Russia’s ability to compete economically and strategically.” The comments came after the Russian government said earlier Tuesdayin the day that some troops who had been on the Ukrainian border had returned to their bases. This helped boost sentiment Tuesday on Wall Street. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury topped 2% as a risk-on tone returned to the market. Yields were little changed Wednesday, with the benchmark note slightly above 2%. The major averages advanced Tuesday, snapping a three-day losing streak. The Dow gained 422 points, or 1.2%. The S&P added 1.58%, while the Nasdaq Composite rose 2.5%. Technology was the top-performing S&P 500 sector, with nine out of the 11 groups registering gains on the day. Utilities and energy stocks were the two sectors in the red, dipping 0.6% and 1.4%, respectively. “U.S. stocks rallied on optimism that it doesn’t seem like Russia will invade Ukraine this week and despite another hot PPI report, as many on Wall Street are still not convinced the Fed will be as aggressive as some are calling for this year,” said Oanda’s Ed Moya. The Labor Department said Tuesday that wholesale prices jumped 1% in January, bringing the gain over the past 12 months to 9.7% on an unadjusted basis. As inflation runs hot, Wall Street is looking ahead to the minutes from the Federal Reserve’s January meeting, which will be released Wednesday at 2 p.m. ET. The summary could be viewed as stale considering the meeting happened before the most recent data. However, investors will be searching for any new insights into the number and size of rate hikes, as well as details of a balance sheet reduction plan. “The latest inflation data continue to decimate the ‘inflation is purely transitory’ theory,’” said Michael Cembalest, chairman of market and investment strategy at J.P. Morgan Asset Management. “After pricing in less than one Fed hike as of last September, markets and Fed watchers now expect between 6 and 7 hikes over the next year, with some arguing for a 50 basis point move and not just 25,” Cembalest added. Retail sales data will also be released Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. on Wall Street. Economists are expecting the report to show that sales rose 2.1% in January. That compares to a 1.9% decline in December. Shares in Asia-Pacific rose on Wednesday, as tensions appeared to ease between Russia and Ukraine, boosting markets. Meanwhile, investors reacted to weaker-than-expected Chinese inflation data. Japan’s Nikkei 225 jumped 2.22% on the day to 27,460.40, leading gains among the region’s major markets, while the Topix index gained 1.67% to 1,946.63. South Korea’s Kospi also saw sizable gains, rising 1.99% to end its trading day at 2,729.68. In mainland China, the Shanghai composite rose 0.57% to 3,465.83 while the Shenzhen component climbed 0.23% to 13,376.36. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index advanced about 1.3%, as of its final hour of trading. Oil prices steadied on Wednesday after retreating more than 3% in the previous session as investors gauged the impact of easing Russia-Ukraine tension against a taut balance between tight global supplies and recovering fuel demand. Brent traded at $93.19 a barrel at 0253 GMT, down 10 cents, having slid 3.3% overnight after Russia announced a partial pullback of its troops near Ukraine, yet to be verified by the United States. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude also held steady and last traded at $92.13 at 0247GMT, after the contract ended Tuesday’s session down 3.6%. Gold prices edged up on Wednesday, after slipping in the previous session, as bullion’s appeal as a hedge against inflation remained intact ahead of the release of the U.S. Federal Reserve minutes due later in the day. Spot gold rose 0.1% to $1,854.97 per ounce by 1030 GMT. U.S. gold futures were nearly steady at $1,858.30.