Stock futures point slightly higher as China growth steadies, earnings roll in

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Stock-index futures pointed to a slightly higher start for Wall Street Wednesday as investors offered a muted reaction to data that showed China’s economic growth stabilized, leaving the focus to a continued stream of corporate results.

What are major indexes doing?

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average YMM9, -0.18%  rose 41 points, or 0.2%, to 26,488, while S&P 500 futures ESM9, +0.06%  rose 6.6 points, or 0.2%, to 2,918. Nasdaq-100 NQM9, +0.58%  were up 27.75 points at 7,707.25, a gain of 0.4%.

Stocks are looking to build on modest gains that saw the Dow DJIA, -0.13%  end 67.89 points higher Tuesday at 26,452.66, up 0.3%, while the S&P 500 SPX, -0.08%  fended off late-session selling to eke out a rise of 1.48 points, or 0.1%, to 2,907.06. The Nasdaq Composite COMP, -0.11%  rose 24.21 points, or 0.3%, to finish at 8,000.23.

See: U.S. stock-market euphoria may be nearing a dangerous level, says RBC strategist

The S&P 500 ended just 0.8% away from its all-time closing high of 2,930.75 set on Sept. 20, while the Dow and Nasdaq each stand around 1.4% away from their record closes set last year.

Also read: Stock market at ‘ risk of a melt-up, not a meltdown,’ warns BlackRock’s Larry Fink

What’s driving the market?

Chinese government data showed the country’s economy grew at a 6.4% rate, year-over-year in the first quarter of 2019, maintaining the pace seen in the last quarter of 2018 as factory output picked up steam. The figure was slightly higher than many economists expected.

The data failed to provide much spark to European markets, but analysts said signs of stability could soothe investor worries about the world’s second-largest economy. Stock-market gains since the end of last year have been tied in part to expectations stimulus efforts by Chinese authorities and a potential deal to end the U.S.-China trade battle would limit the scope of the country’s slowdown and alleviate fears of a global economic crunch.

Meanwhile, investors continue to wade through corporate results as first-quarter earnings season moves into full swing.

What stocks are in focus?

Shares of Netflix Inc. NFLX, -1.63%  were off 1.1% in premarket trade after the streaming-entertainment company said it attracted a record 9.6 million new subscribers in the first quarter, but disappointed investors with its forecast for second-quarter profit and subscription growth.

Read: Netflix is burning money and lacks a good business model, this tech investor says

Shares of Qualcomm Inc. QCOM, +13.16%  were up more than 5% in premarket trade after soaring more than 20% on Tuesday after the chip maker and Apple Inc. AAPL, +0.34% settled patent litigation against each other.

Opinion: Qualcomm gets big windfall in surprise settlement, but Apple may have saved the iPhone from 5G doom

Following the settlement, chip maker Intel Corp. INTC, +3.49%  said it would get out of the business for 5G modem chips in which it was trying to compete with Qualcomm. Intel shares were up 3.7% in premarket action.

Shares of PepsiCo Inc. PEP, +2.74%  were up 2.1% in premarket trade after the beverage and snack giant Wednesday morning reported first-quarter profit and revenue that topped Wall Street expectations.

International Business Machines Inc. IBM, -4.98% stock fell 3.2% in off-hours trade, after the information technology company reported Tuesday evening that its first-quarter revenue fell more than analysts had expected.

Shares of Bank of New York Mellon Corp. BK, -8.79% fell 3.6% before the bell Wednesday, after the financial services company reported sharper declines in first-quarter sales and profits than Wall Street had expected.

Morgan Stanley MS, +1.28% stock rose 2.7% in premarket trade, after the company reported first-quarter profit and revenue that fell less than expected.

Shares of United Continental Holdings Inc. UAL, +4.58% rose 1.7% in off-hours trade, after the airliner released earnings figures Tuesday evening that beat analyst forecasts.

What are the analysts saying?

“It’s still much too small a sample size to generate conclusions, but the bottom line is that earnings season is not off to a very good start,” wrote Tom Essaye, president of the Sevens Report in a Wednesday morning research note. “While stocks are looking past that courtesy of dovish Fed speak and hopes of better global growth, earnings will need to get better during the next two weeks—because so far the results, while not a disaster, aren’t that great.”

What’s on the economic calendar?

The Census Bureau will issue an update on the U.S. trade deficit for February, at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time. At 10 a.m., it will issue a report on wholesale inventories.

Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker will give a speech on the economic outlook at 12:30 p.m., while St. Louis Fed President James Bullard will give a speech at the Hyman Minksy Conference in New York at 12:45 p.m. Bullard is a voter on the Fed’s interest-rate committee this year, while Harker is not.

At 2 p.m., the Federal Reserve will issue its beige book, a collection of anecdotal reports on the state of the U.S. economy.

How are other markets trading?

Stocks in Asia closed mostly higher on Wednesday, with China’s Shanghai Composite Index and Japan’s Nikkei 225 both rising 0.3%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index, meanwhile, ended the day flat.

In Europe, stocks were trading mixed, as the Stoxx Europe 600 SXXP, +0.19% was down 0.1%, while Germany’s DAX DAX, +0.71% and France’s CAC 40 PX1, +0.62% were slightly higher on the day.

In commodities markets, the price of crude oil CLK9, +0.17% was on the rise, as was gold GCM9, +0.05% The U.S. dollar DXY, -0.12% meanwhile, edged lower Wednesday.