U.S. stock futures get a boost ahead of Jackson Hole meeting

U.S. stock futures rose on Thursday amid thin summer trading as investors waited for an update on Fed thinking at the end of the week.

How are stock-index futures trading
  • S&P 500 futures
    rose 37 points, or 0.9%, to 4180

  • Dow Jones Industrial Average futures
    added 225 points, or 0.7%, to 33183

  • Nasdaq 100 futures
    climbed 136 points, or 1.1%, to 13066

On Wednesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average
rose 60 points, or 0.18%, to 32969, the S&P 500
increased 12 points, or 0.29%, to 4141, and the Nasdaq Composite
gained 50 points, or 0.41%, to 12432. The S&P 500 is up 12.9% from its mid-June low but remains down 13.1% for the year to date.

What’s driving markets

S&P 500 futures lurched higher in the early hours on Thursday, helped by signs the world’s fourth biggest economy may be faring better than feared.

Futures began to move higher after revised data showed German’s gross domestic product grew by 0.1% in the second quarter. Analysts had forecast no growth on fears that surging energy prices were curtailing activity. The German Ifo business climate index also didn’t fall as much as anticipated.

Also helping the mood was news that Beijing was deploying a further 1 trillion yuan ($146 billion) of measures to help revive an economy struggling with a severe property sector downturn, drought-related manufacturing slowdown and lingering COVID-19 shutdowns.

However, the move in futures comes in thin trading conditions. For example, the previous session on Wall Street saw just 8.8 billion shares traded across the various exchanges. That was the lowest so far this year and was 26% below the daily average in 2022, according to Dow Jones data.

Activity also has been curtailed by a reluctance among some investors to make bold bets before Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell gives a speech on Friday at the Jackson Hole symposium.

Investors will dissect Powell’s comments for clues to the direction of Fed policy, an issue that has greatly determined market trajectory of late.

“Markets maintained their holding pattern, ahead of an important couple of days which should provide further short-term directional clues,” said Richard Hunter, head of markets at Interactive Investor.

Susannah Streeter, senior investment and markets analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said that now the start of the Jackson Hole meeting has arrived “the nervousness which swept through indices earlier in the week has been kept at bay. The expectation that the U.S. Federal Reserve will keep hiking rates to beat down inflation has already been priced in to some extent”.

Investors were also contending with a decidedly mixed bag of earnings from some erstwhile tech darlings that were released after Wednesday’s closing bell. Shares in Nvidia
and Salesforce
were lower but Snowflake
was up 17.3% after its numbers and forecasts were well-received.

The propensity for many companies to highlight economic uncertainty when delivering their earnings updates has colored the thinking of equity analysts and made some reluctant to see much more market upside for the time being.

“Our single point 4200 year end S&P 500 target reflects a balance of soft landing and recession scenarios,” said Citi’s U.S. equity strategist Scott Chronert in a note.

“With several months to go in the year, volatility related to market interpretation of incremental macro and rate data points should be expected,” Chronert added.

U.S. economic reports on the slate Thursday include the weekly initial jobless claims and second quarter GDP data, both due at 8:30 am Eastern. The GDP data also will include the preliminary reading on corporate profits for the second quarter.

How are other assets faring
  • Oil futures were steady with U.S. crude
    up just 0.1% to $94.96 a barrel.

  • The 10-year Treasury yield
    dipped 2 basis points to 3.088%

  • The ICE Dollar index
    fell 0.4% to 108.27, helping to inspire gains for gold
    which rose 0.9% to $1,777 an ounce.

  • Bitcoin
    advanced 0.1% to $21721.

  • Asia markets got an added lift from the latest stimulus in China. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng
    rose 3.6% and the Shanghai Composite
    climbed 1%. In Europe, the Stoxx 600
    rose 1%.

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