Friday January 19th


US futures point to a positive open; countdown to government shutdown looms

U.S. stock index futures posted gains ahead of the open on Friday, as investors paid close attention to the political space, as government shutdown concerns continue to linger. Dow Jones industrial average futures rose 93 points, while S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures gained 9 points and 34 points, respectively. In the previous trading session, U.S. stocks closed lower with the Dow Jones Industrial Average finishing almost 100 points down as political news weighed. On Thursday night, however, the House passed a bill to avoid a government shutdown, forwarding it to the Senate. Sixty votes are needed from the Senate to pass the spending bill in order to get it sent to President Donald Trump's desk. Whether enough votes will emerge remains up in the air, as several Democrats have committed to voting down the bill. Congress has to pass the bill by the end of Friday to avoid a shutdown. Earnings will likely move the needle somewhat during trade. Schlumberger, Citizens Financial, SunTrust and Synchrony Financial are some of the names set to report financial updates. In data news, consumer sentiment is due out at 10 a.m. ET. On the U.S. central bank front, two speeches by Federal Reserve members are set to take place. Most major indexes in Asia closed with gains on Friday although the Australian benchmark tracked lower. Wall Street, for its part, closed its Thursday session with slight losses amid political concerns. Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 rose 0.19 percent, or 44.69 points, to close at 23,808.06. In South Korea, the Kospi tacked on 0.18 percent to end at 2,520.26. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index clung to narrow gains at 3:25 p.m. HK/SIN, trading higher by just 0.02 percent, after notching its third consecutive record close in the last session. On the mainland, the Shanghai composite tacked on 0.41 percent to close at 3,489.11. The Shanghai index had traded at its highest levels in two years earlier in the session following the release of robust Chinese growth numbers on Thursday. The Shenzhen composite erased early gains to close lower by 0.14 percent at 1,921.33. Oil prices slid on Friday, putting them on course for the biggest weekly falls since October, as a bounce-back in U.S. production outweighed ongoing declines in crude inventories. Brent crude futures were at $68.70 a barrel at 0949 GMT, down 61 cents from their last close. On Monday, they hit their highest since December 2014 at $70.37. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $63.38 a barrel, down 57 cents from their last settlement. WTI marked a December-2014 peak of $64.89 a barrel on Tuesday. Gold prices rose half a percent on Friday as the dollar labored near a three-year low amid heightened fears of a U.S. government shutdown, but the precious metal was still on track for its first weekly drop in six. Spot gold was up 0.53 percent at $1,334.40 an ounce at 8:27 a.m. EST, on track for a weekly drop of 0.3 percent, having fallen from four-month highs hit on Monday. U.S. gold futures were up 0.54 percent at $1,334.50.