Thursday March 29th


US futures point to a positive open; tech stocks in focus

U.S. stock index futures posted minor gains ahead of Thursday's open, as investors continued to watch the latest market moves coming from the technology space. Around 8:30 a.m. ET, Dow futures rose 66 points, indicating an uptick of 92.58 points at the open. The Nasdaq and the S&P 500 futures also indicated a positive open for their respective markets. The moves in premarket trade come after markets on Wall Street closed in the red on Wednesday. Markets have been under pressure of late, as concerns surrounding global trade and data usage by social media firms dominate sentiment. In economic news, personal income rose 0.4 percent in February, matching expectations. Meanwhile, weekly jobless claims dropped to their lowest level in more than 45 years, hitting 215,000. At 9:45 a.m. ET, Chicago purchasing managers' index (PMI) is slated to come out, followed by consumer sentiment figures at 10 a.m. ET. Overseas, markets in Asia closed mostly higher, while European indexes posted minor gains Thursday. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 closed up 0.61 percent, or 127.77 points, at 21,159.08 after rebounding late in the day. The index had dipped below the flat line in the afternoon after trading more than 1 percent higher early in the session. Elsewhere, the Kospi tacked on 0.71 percent to end at 2,436.37 as losses in automakers and shipmakers were offset by gains in steelmakers and banks. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index was up 0.36 percent by 3:34 p.m. HK/SIN. On the mainland, the Shanghai composite rose 1.24 percent to close at 3,160.93 and the smaller Shenzhen composite added 0.98 percent to finish at 1,830.09. The large cap CSI 300 index advanced 1.35 percent as mainland banks and insurers notched gains. While market anxiety over a potential trade war appear to have subsided, worries around social media and technology remain at the forefront of investors' minds. Last week, reports emerged alleging that Cambridge Analytica, an analytics company, had gathered data from 50 million Facebook profiles without users' permission. While Facebook have since come out to apologize and try to rectify the matter, concerns remain over data use. In the latest surrounding the debacle, Facebook unveiled new tools on Wednesday designed to make it easier for users to look at and access the data that the social media giant has on each user. The move is also an effort to regain trust with Facebook members, following the data scandal. Sticking with the space, shares of Amazon tumbled Wednesday after news emerged that President Donald Trump reportedly wanted to take on the e-commerce giant, in regards to its tax treatment. The U.S. incumbent has claimed for a while that Amazon receives unfair tax treatment compared with brick-and-mortar retailers. On Wednesday, Axios reported, citing sources, that Trump was "obsessed" with Amazon and wanted to "go after" the group. Oil lingered below this week's highs on Thursday, as another rise in U.S. crude inventories partly offset support from OPEC's commitment to controlling its output. The oil price touched $71 a barrel on Tuesday, near its high for the year, but has struggled to gain further traction since then, despite supportive comments from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. June Brent crude futures were down 39 cents at $68.37 a barrel by 8:21 a.m. ET (1221 GMT), while the May Brent contract, which expires later on Thursday, was down 31 cents at $69.22. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures fell 9 cents to $64.29 a barrel. Gold prices dipped on Thursday as the dollar held its strong gains from the previous session, but simmering tensions over Russia and a potential trade war offered support. Gold posted its biggest one-day percentage fall in nearly nine months on Wednesday after robust U.S. data lifted the dollar, which steadied at those strong levels on Thursday. Spot gold vacillated around $1,324.80 per ounce by 8:03 a.m. EST, after hitting a low of $1,322.50 earlier in the session, its lowest since March 21. U.S. gold futures for April delivery were down 0.05 percent at $1,329.30 per ounce.