U.S. stock index futures were higher on Wednesday as investors eye the end of an eventful first quarter that has seen a bank crisis break out, crypto winter show signs of thawing, and last year's stock market performance tentatively reverse. Near 8:40 a.m. ET, S&P 500 futures were up 0.8%, Dow futures were higher by 0.7%, and Nasdaq futures up 0.8%. With the first quarter set to wrap up on Friday, the Nasdaq is sitting on gains near 12%, the S&P 500 is up more than 3% so far this year, while the Dow is lagging, falling 2.2% in 2023. This relative performance is a reversal from what was seen last year when the Nasdaq fell nearly 30%, the S&P 500 lost over 18%, while the Dow fell a more modest 9%. The price of crude oil was also higher early Wednesday, rising 1.2% to trade near $74 a barrel. Bitcoin was also notably higher, rising more than 5% to trade north of $28,000. So far this year bitcoin has gained more than 70%. Wednesday's move higher comes amid a somewhat slower calendar for corporate and economic news, with earnings last night from Micron Technology (MU) and Lululemon (LULU) serving as the key highlights early in the trading session. Micron shares were up more than 2.5% early Wednesday after the chip giant last night suggested the battered chip business could be turning a corner, with CEO Sanjay Mehrotra telling investors "we are close to a transition to sequential revenue growth in our quarterly results." Micron reported revenues for its fiscal second quarter on Tuesday that were down about 10% from the prior quarter and more than 50% lower than the same period last year. Mehrotra also called out the potential positive impacts that recent investor enthusiasm around AI advances could have on the industry, telling investors: "Recent developments in artificial intelligence (AI) provide an exciting prelude to the transformational capabilities of large language models, or LLMs, such as ChatGPT, which require significant amounts of memory and storage to operate. We are only in the very early stages of the widespread deployment of these AI technologies and potential exponential growth in their commercial use cases." Lululemon shares, meanwhile, were up as much as 16% on Wednesday after reporting top and bottom line results that beat estimates, with revenue rising 30% in the fourth quarter as comparable store sales rose 27%. Hong Kong stocks jumped for a second day as Alibaba Group Holding powered a rally in Chinese technology companies after the e-commerce market leader unveiled a business reorganisation to boost profits and add value to shareholders. The Hang Seng Index gained 1.9 per cent to 20,162.65 at the noon trading break, bringing the advance this month to 1.9 per cent. The Tech Index climbed 2.7 per cent while the Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.2 per cent. Key Asian markets advanced. Softbank Group, which owns a stake in Alibaba, surged as much as 6.4 per cent, aiding a 0.7 per cent rise in the Nikkei 225 Index. The S&P ASX 200 Index in Australia rose 0.2 per cent, while the Kospi in South Korea lost 0.1 per cent. Gold prices fell in Asian trade on Wednesday, coming under pressure from an overnight surge in Treasury yields and as regulators further downplayed concerns over a widespread U.S. banking crisis. But the yellow metal still remained relatively well bid, with investors building their long positions on bullion prices in recent weeks on concerns that the recent collapse of several U.S. banks could leave lasting scars on the economy. Treasury yields surged after the Federal Reserve's head of banking supervision, Michael Barr, said in a testimony that the U.S. banking system was resilient, and that the recent collapse of Silicon Valley Bank was due to a “textbook case of mismanagement.” Spot gold fell 0.2% to $1,969.01 an ounce, while gold futures expiring in June fell 0.2% to $1,987.00 an ounce. Both instruments made another run at the $2,000 level on Tuesday, before closing the session below key highs.
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