Thursday February 17th


Stock futures decline as traders eye Russia-Ukraine tensions

U.S. stock market index futures dipped in early morning trading Thursday but were off their lows as strong earnings from Walmart helped boost sentiment. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 132 points, or 0.4%. S&P 500 futures declined 0.5% and Nasdaq 100 futures ticked down 0.7%. A slew of companies reported quarterly results after the bell Wednesday. DoorDash surged more than 26% in premarket trading after reporting a loss while saying revenue rose and issuing upbeat guidance. Cisco rose 3.5% after also topping estimates and raising guidance, and Applied Materials added 2%. In early earnings action, Walmart topped expectations and reaffirmed guidance, sending shares up 1.7% in premarket trading and helping to stem losses for futures. Investors also are awaiting quarterly reports from Airbus, Autonation and Nestle. Ongoing tension at the Russia-Ukraine border continued to impact market sentiment. The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations said Thursday that there is evidence that Russia is preparing for an “imminent invasion” of Ukraine. NATO officials on Wednesday accused Russia of increasing troop numbers at the Ukrainian border. U.S. and Russian aircraft in the Mediterranean Sea flew close to each other over the weekend, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. Russia expressed caution Thursday about disturbances in eastern Ukraine and cautioned it will take time to remove troops from the border. On the economic front, weekly jobless claims numbers came in at 248,000, rising from the previous week and above the 218,000 expected, according to a Dow Jones estimate. Housing permits for January showed a surprise increase, but housing starts lagged expectations. The S&P 500 in Wednesday’s regular trading session closed little changed, while the Dow shed nearly 55 points and the Nasdaq Composite dipped 0.1%. The major stock averages came off their lows Wednesday after the release of minutes from the Fed’s January meeting. The meeting summary showed the Fed is prepared to hike interest rates and reduce its balance sheet soon, as investors had already expected. “Marketwise it’s not the barn burner it could have been,” said Michael Schumacher, director of rates at Wells Fargo. “I think this tells us very little about Fed policy.” Stocks in Asia-Pacific were mixed on Thursday as investors continued to monitor the situation surrounding Ukraine. The Nikkei 225 in Japan closed 0.83% lower at 27,232.87 while the Topix index shed 0.79% to 1,931.24. Mainland Chinese stocks finished the trading day higher, with the Shanghai composite rising fractionally to 3,468.04 and the Shenzhen component climbing 0.348% to 13,422.90. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong hovered above the flatline, as of its final hour of trading. Elsewhere, South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.53% to finish its trading day at 2,744.09. Oil prices fell on Thursday as talks to resurrect a nuclear deal with Iran entered their final stages, but losses were capped by heightened tensions between top energy exporter Russia and the West over Ukraine. Brent crude traded down $1.64, or 1.7%, at $93.18 per barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude declined $1.94, or 2.07%, to $91.71 per barrel. Gold prices held ground on Thursday near an eight-month high touched earlier this week, as the U.S. dollar and Treasury yields dipped after Federal Reserve minutes showed a less hawkish-than-feared stance. Spot gold was flat at $1,868.09 per ounce, as of 0331 GMT, hovering near its June high of $1,879.48 hit on Tuesday. U.S. gold futures were down 0.1% at $1,870.30.