Thursday March 15th


US stocks set for a mixed to positive open as trade concerns rumble on

U.S. stock index futures posted slight gains ahead of Thursday's open, as investors tried to shake off concerns surrounding global trade. At around 8:45 a.m. ET, Dow futures were up 82 points, indicating a rise of 79.88 points at the open. S&P 500 futures pointed to a slightly higher open while Nasdaq 100 futures tipped a flat start to the session. The moves in premarket trade come after Wall Street saw a choppy trading day on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones industrial average closing almost 250 points down, after starting the session over 100 points higher. Shares of Boeing were under pressure, in particular, as concerns that a trade war could occur between the U.S. and China came to the surface. Last week, President Donald Trump signed two declarations which would implement tariffs on steel and aluminum imports — both of which are expected to take effect in the coming weeks. While Canada and Mexico are exempt from the deal, fears over a potential trade war remain, as investors worry that countries around the world may strike back. A report has also emerged stating that Trump could slap $60 billion of tariffs on Chinese goods. In economic news, weekly jobless claims dropped by 4,000 to 226,000, in line with expectations. At 10 a.m. ET the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index is slated to come out, followed by Treasury International Capital (TIC) data at 4 p.m. ET. Meantime, Larry Kudlow is expected to take the job of top economic advisor, replacing Gary Cohn. On Wednesday, Kudlow and the White House confirmed the economist and senior CNBC contributor accepted the post of National Economic Council director. Looking to commodities, oil prices were under pressure in morning trade after an IEA report was released, which stated that Venezuela would likely remain the biggest risk factor among the top oil producers for a while to come. Brent crude were last down 13 cents on the day at $64.76 a barrel, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 1 cent at $60.97 a barrel. Asian markets closed mixed on Thursday, after some regional stock indexes shrugged off early losses. Meanwhile, the dollar and bond yields slipped as concerns over heightened trade tensions lingered. The Nikkei 225 edged up by 0.12 percent, or 26.66 points, to close at 21,803.95, reversing losses seen earlier in the day. Across the Korean Strait, the Kospi added 0.25 percent to end at 2,492.38. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index advanced 0.22 percent by 3:00 p.m. HK/SIN. Mainland markets closed mixed. The Shanghai composite finished the session mostly unchanged, closing up 0.01 percent at 3,291.61. The Shenzhen composite slipped 0.22 percent to end at 1,874.41. Gold steadied on Thursday near the one-week high hit the previous session, supported by the tension between Britain and Russia, while a modest bounce in the dollar capped gains. The dollar index consolidated gains versus a currency basket before next week's U.S. Federal Reserve meeting, while the yield on U.S. Treasuries and German Bunds rose for the first time in four days. Spot gold dipped 0.2 percent to $1,322.50 per ounce at 1124 GMT but still close to Wednesday's one-week high, while U.S. gold futures for April delivery were down 0.2 percent at $1,322.60 per ounce.