Thursday April 19th


US stocks are likely to start off lower as fresh corporate earnings flood in

U.S. stock index futures fell ahead of Thursday's open, as earnings season continued to deliver fresh results. Around 8:30 a.m. ET, Dow Jones industrial average futures slipped 46 points, indicating a lower open of 28.07 points. The Nasdaq and the S&P 500 futures also indicated a lower start to Thursday's session for their respective markets. The moves in premarket trade came after major indexes on Wall Street pointed in different directions by Wednesday's close. While politics continues to shake up markets, investors in the U.S. have been turning their attention to the corporate space this week, as a slew of earnings are released. On Thursday, Procter & Gamble, Bank of New York Mellon and Blackstone all reported better-than-expected earnings. In data, weekly jobless claims totaled 232,000, slightly more than expected. The Philadelphia Fed index hit 23.2 for April, higher than a Reuters estimate of 20. On the central banking front, Fed Governor Randal Quarles will appear before the Senate Banking Committee, where he is set to give the semiannual testimony of the Federal Reserve's supervision and regulation of the financial system. Investors will be watching out for political news, with rising tensions in the Middle East after the U.S., U.K. and France conducted missile strikes against the Syrian government last weekend, in response to a suspected chemical attack. Markets in Asia closed higher on Thursday amid improved investor sentiment after U.S. stocks notched gains in the last session. Oil prices also extended gains after settling close to 3 percent higher in the last session. The Nikkei 225 added 0.15 percent, or 32.98 points, to close at 22,191.18, with the materials sector contributing to gains. The index pared back some gains in the afternoon after touching a 7-week high earlier. In Seoul, the Kospi firmed after tepid early trade to finish 0.25 percent higher at 2,486.10 amid gains in steelmakers and other manufacturing names. Greater China markets advanced: Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 1.21 percent by 3:00 p.m. Mainland markets also climbed, with the Shanghai composite adding 0.85 percent to close at 3,117.55 and the Shenzhen composite rising 0.6 percent to 1,814.64. Oil prices rose on Thursday to their highest since late 2014 as U.S. crude inventories declined, moving closer to five-year averages, and after sources told Reuters top exporter Saudi Arabia is seeking to push oil prices higher. Brent crude oil futures rallied as high as $74.44 a barrel, the strongest since Nov. 27, 2014, the day that OPEC decided to pump as much as it could to defend market share, sending the price to a low of $27 just over a year later. Brent futures were at $74.35 per barrel at 0823 GMT, up 87 cents from their last close. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose 71 cents to $69.18 a barrel. WTI had earlier hit $69.27, its best level since Dec. 2, 2014. Gold prices rose for a fifth straight session, buoyed by a rally in base metals that has fueled concerns of inflationary pressures, with lingering U.S.-China trade tensions lending further support to the precious metal. Spot gold had risen 0.3 percent to $1,353.22 per ounce by 0749 GMT, while U.S. gold futures rose 0.2 percent to $1,356.30 per ounce.