Wednesday February 19th


US futures point to a slightly higher open

U.S. stock index futures were slightly higher Wednesday morning. Around 6 a.m. ET, Dow futures indicated a positive open of more than 60 points. Futures on the S&P and Nasdaq were both marginally higher. Market focus remains largely attuned to the potential economic fallout of the coronavirus outbreak. China’s National Health Commission on Wednesday reported an additional 1,749 cases of the coronavirus nationwide, with 136 deaths. As of Feb. 18., the commission said there had been a total of 74,185 confirmed cases and 2,004 cumulative deaths. Cases of the deadly flu-like virus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, have been reported in more than two dozen countries around the world. Last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a global health emergency. On the data front, the Labor Department will publish its producer price index (PPI) for January at 8 a.m. ET, with housing starts for January, building permits for January, and a business leaders survey for February all due at the same time. The Federal Reserve is also scheduled to publish its meeting minutes from December, when policymakers at the U.S. central bank decided to hold short-term interest rates steady between a range of 1.5% to 1.75%. In corporate news, Elanco Animal Health, Garmin, and Genuine Parts are among some of the companies scheduled to report earnings before the opening bell. Host Hotels, Synopsys, and Zillow are among some of the companies set to release their latest quarterly figures after market close. Asia markets mostly recovered on Wednesday after tumbling a day before, with investors closely monitoring China’s progress in returning to work as the country deals with the coronavirus outbreak. Oil prices also bounced back. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.47% in the afternoon. Mainland Chinese stocks erased earlier gains to decline by the close. The Shanghai composite lost 0.32% to 2,975.40, and the Shenzhen component declined 0.63% to 11,235.60. The Shenzhen composite slid 0.55% to close at 1,846.40. Japan’s Nikkei 225 returned to positive territory, jumping 0.89% to close at 23,400.70 after slipping more than 1% the day before. The Topix was up 0.37% to 1,671.86. South Korea’s Kospi edged up to close at 2,210.34. Oil prices rose on Wednesday, with Brent gaining for a seventh straight day, after a slowing of new coronavirus cases in China eased demand worries and supply was curtailed by a U.S. move to cut more Venezuelan crude from the market. Brent crude was up 73 cents, or 1.2%, to trade at $58.48 per barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude gained 70 cents, or 1.3%, to trade at $52.75 a barrel. Gold climbed towards a seven-year peak on Wednesday as concerns over the global economic impact of the coronavirus epidemic boosted safe-haven interest, while palladium resumed its record rally driven by concerns over a supply shortfall. Spot gold rose 0.5% to $1,609.63 per ounce. The metal jumped to $1,610.72 earlier, its highest since Jan. 8, when gold hit its highest in nearly 7 years. U.S. gold futures rose 0.6% to $1,612.90.