Stock futures ticked higher on Wednesday, boosted by technology and bank names, as the market approached the end of the second quarter and first half. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 150 points, or 0.45%. S&P 500 futures gained 0.4%, and Nasdaq-100 futures jumped 0.4%. Micron Technology shares ticked up 3% after the chipmaker posted revenue that came in higher than expected for its latest quarter, citing higher industry demand. Other popular chip names rose in sympathy, with Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices last up 1% each. Bank stocks got a boost in the premarket after the country’s biggest lenders passed the Federal Reserve’s annual stress test. JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Bank of America gained 1% in the premarket. Wall street got another bout of positive economic data on Thursday that signaled economic resilience despite looming recession fears. That included a large upward revision in first-quarter GDP and drop in jobless claims data to the lowest level since May. The stock market is nearing the end of the first half of 2023 with strong performance. The S&P 500 is up 14% this year. Meanwhile, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite has climbed nearly 30% — heading toward its best first half since 1983 — as rising optimism around artificial intelligence pushed up a slew of tech names and chipmakers. The blue-chip Dow is the relative underperformer, up just 2% this year. Many on Wall Street are expecting a volatile second half. “The Fed, the data, and the AI story all have to go right for equities to go higher, since the S&P 500 is already priced for a near-perfect landing, while anything going wrong could lead to a downturn,” Jason Draho, head of asset allocation Americas at UBS Global Wealth Management, said in a note. On Wednesday, the S&P 500 closed near the flatline as investors digested Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s latest comments about the tightening cycle. Speaking at a forum sponsored by the European Central Bank, Powell said more restrictive policy is still to come as the Fed continues to fight inflation. This includes the prospect of interest rate hikes at consecutive meetings, he added. Powell signaled similar sentiment speaking Thursday at a conference with the governor of the Bank of Spain in Madrid. Traders will also keep an eye on weekly jobless claims data Thursday morning to gauge the health of the labor market. Just two trading days remain for the month, quarter and first half of the year. For June, the S&P 500 is up 4.7%, on pace for its best monthly performance since January. In the second quarter, the equity benchmark has gained 6.5%, on track for its third positive quarter in a row. Asia-Pacific shares closed mixed on Thursday in lackluster trade, as investors continue to parse comments from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell who indicated there could be multiple rate hikes ahead. The Nikkei 225 was up 0.12% to close at 33,234.14 while the Topix traded lower 0.1% to end at 2,296.25. On the economic front, official data showed Japanese retail sales rose 5.7% year-on-year in May. South Korea’s Kospi dipped 0.55% to 2,550.02 while the Kosdaq slipped 0.6% lower to 861.79. Japan and South Korea are slated to discuss a currency swap deal in what would be their first bilateral finance meeting in seven years, according to Reuters. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 1.56%. Mainland Chinese markets also ended lower, with the Shanghai Composite down 0.22% to close at 3,182.38 and the Shenzhen Component closed at 10,915.50, lower by 0.099%. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 traded near flat. Markets in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and India are closed for the Eid al-Adha holiday. Oil prices fell on Thursday, paring some of the previous day’s gains, as investors took profits on concerns of further interest rate hikes dampening economic growth and global fuel demand while weak economic data in China also weighed on sentiment. Brent crude futures declined 12 cents, or 0.2%, to $73.91 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures slipped 2 cents to $69.54 a barrel. Both benchmarks climbed about 3% on Wednesday after the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said crude inventories dropped by 9.6 million barrels in the week ended June 23, far exceeding the 1.8-million barrel draw analysts had forecast in a Reuters poll. Gold prices lingered near a Mid-March low on Thursday, dragged down by a stronger dollar and hawkish comments from U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell. Spot gold fell 0.1% to $1,906.17 per ounce, near a mid-March low hit on Wednesday. U.S. gold futures fell 0.4% to $1,914.60. The dollar index was higher, making gold expensive for holders of other currencies.
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