Friday March 3rd


Wall Street set for mixed open ahead of Yellen's speech

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a mixed open on Friday as traders eyed comments from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and a number of other Fed speakers. Yellen is set to speak on the economic outlook at the Executives Club of Chicago at 1:00 p.m. ET. At 12:30 p.m. ET, Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer will speak on Fed monetary policy decision making in New York, while Fed Governor Jerome Powell will give a speech in New Haven, Connecticut, at 12:15 p.m. ET. The likelihood of a rate hike this month has increased dramatically in recent weeks amid improving economic data and hawkish Fed rhetoric. According to the CME Group's FedWatch tool, market expectations for a rate hike in March were around 77 percent. Equities pulled back on Thursday, a day after posting their best session of the year. On the data front Markit services PMI is due at 9:45 a.m. ET, with the ISM non-manufacturing index set to come out at 10:00 a.m. ET. In Europe, the pan European Stoxx 600 Index was around 0.32 percent lower on Friday morning. Asia markets lost ground Friday, following an overnight decline in U.S. equities, as the market priced in increasing chances the Federal Reserve might hike interest rates later this month. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 closed down 95.63 points, or 0.49 percent, at 19,469.17. Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi fell 23.90 points, or 1.14 percent, to 2,078.75 as stocks likely struggled against reports of tension between China and South Korea. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index was down 0.66 percent in late-afternoon trade. Chinese mainland shares closed mixed, with the Shanghai composite down 10.84 points, or 0.34 percent, at 3,219.18, and the Shenzhen composite ended up 4.18 points, or 0.21 percent, at 2,001.90. In oil markets, Brent crude traded at $55.30 a barrel on Friday, up 0.4 percent, while U.S. crude held at $52.74 a barrel, up 0.27 percent. Gold fell more than half a percent on Friday and was on track for its biggest weekly loss in nearly four months as speculation grew that the Federal Reserve would press ahead with an increase in U.S. interest rates this month. Spot gold dropped 0.51 percent to $1,228.42 per ounce, while U.S. gold futures for April delivery fell 0.32 percent to $1,229.