Thursday March 31st


Dow and S&P 500 futures are little changed as Wall Street gets set to end a wild quarter

U.S. Stock index futures were little changed in early morning trading Thursday as traders wrap up a month and quarter. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 34 points, or 0.1%. S&P 500 futures were flat, and Nasdaq 100 futures added 0.2%. Some tech stocks were under pressure Thursday amid analysts concerns over the PC market going forward. AMD shares slipped more than 1% in the premarket after analysts at Barclays downgraded the stock to equal weight from overweight. Meanwhile, HP Inc and Dell dipped 3.8% and 2%, respectively, after being downgraded to equal weight from overweight at Morgan Stanley. Thursday marks the last trading day of March and of the first quarter. Stocks have rallied in the second half of the month. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq are on pace to finish the month up about 5% each, while the Dow is nearly 4% higher in March. However, for the first quarter, the Dow and S&P 500 are both down about 3% and the Nasdaq is off more than 7%. For all three averages, this will be the first negative quarter since the first quarter of 2020, which marked the start of the Covid pandemic in the U.S. “There’s been a nice relief rally, partly on beginning to look past the invasion, some clarity around central bank actions, and some technical buying, as there was a lot of money on the sidelines,” said Erik Knutzen, the chief investment officer for multi-asset class strategies at Neuberger Berman. “But we think from here investors are going to, at some point, realize, wait a second, growth is slowing and interest rates are rising and inflation is still high. This is still a challenging set-up for equities.” Oil prices fell sharply, with West Texas Intermediate futures dropping 5% to $102.18 per barrel. That comes as President Joe Biden’s administration considers a plan to release 1 million barrels of oil per day from the strategic petroleum reserve for about six months, a source told NBC News. Volatile oil prices have loomed over equities, with U.S. crude prices climbing more than 3% on Wednesday. Germany warned of potential rationing of natural gas due to disputes with Russia, and U.S. crude stockpiles fell. “We’re going to be bouncing around between good news and bad news, unfortunately,” said George Mateyo, Key Private Bank chief investment officer. “That’s going to create some volatility.” On the economic data front, weekly jobless claims came in at 202,000. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones were expecting 196,000. Personal income rose 0.5%, meeting expectations, while consumer spending rose less than expected. Core PCE prices, a key inflation measure watched by the Fed, came in at 5.4% growth year over year for February. That was just below the expectations of 5.5%. Stocks are coming off a down session Wednesday in which the Dow and S&P 500 each snapped four-day win streaks. The Dow shed 65.38 points, or 0.2%. The S&P 500 fell 0.6% and the Nasdaq lost 1.2%. Shares in Asia-Pacific were mixed on Thursday as oil prices fell sharply. In the broader Asia-Pacific markets, mainland Chinese stocks declined on the day as the Shanghai composite shed 0.44% to 3,252.20 while the Shenzhen component slipped 1.187% to 12,118.25. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index also fell 0.66%, as of its final hour of trading. Elsewhere, the Nikkei 225 in Japan closed 0.73% lower at 27,821.43 while the Topix index dipped 1.08% to 1,946.40. South Korea’s Kospi climbed 0.4%, finishing the trading day at 2,757.65. Oil prices dropped sharply on Thursday after reports that U.S. President Joe Biden is considering the release of up to 180 million barrels from the country’s strategic petroleum reserve (SPR). Biden is set to give remarks later on Thursday, with multiple outlets reporting that the plan to cool soaring crude prices will involve the release of around 1 million barrels of oil per day for several months. International benchmark Brent crude futures for May fell by 5.5% to $107.20 per barrel by 9 a.m. on Wall Street, paring earlier losses. U.S. crude futures for May delivery slid 5.3% to $102.34 per barrel. Earlier in the session the contract traded as low as $100.16. Gold fell on Thursday, but prices were set for their biggest quarterly gain since September 2020, as the Russia-Ukraine conflict lifted demand for the safe-haven metal. Spot gold was down 0.4% at $1,926.03 per ounce. U.S. gold futures were down 0.5% at $1,929.50. The metal has gained about 5.6% so far in the quarter and 1% in the month.