Friday March 16th


US stock futures slip as political turbulence rumbles on

U.S. stock index futures fluctuated ahead of Friday's open, as investors' tried to shake off concerns surrounding the U.S. administration. Around 8:10 a.m. ET, Dow futures slipped 39 points, indicating a drop of 10.66 points at the open. The Nasdaq and the S&P 500 futures meantime pointed to a relatively flat open for their respective markets. The moves in premarket trade come after Wall Street saw a choppy trading day Thursday, with the Dow Jones industrial average closing up more than 100 points and other major indexes closing lower. Political developments continue to rattle investor sentiment, with markets overseas seeing their gains capped due to developments within the White House. President Donald Trump has reportedly decided to remove national security advisor H.R. McMaster from the U.S. administration, according to a report by the Washington Post Thursday. The White House has however gone onto deny that any changes are set to emerge within the National Security Council. CBS News reported on Friday that White House chief of staff John Kelly could depart the administration as early as today. Elsewhere, concerns surrounding a potential trade war continue to dwell on investor sentiment. Tariffs on steel and aluminum imports are expected to come into effect in the coming weeks, after Trump signed two declarations last week. While Canada and Mexico are exempt from the deal, investors worry that countries around the world may strike back. Switching focus to the final day of the trading week, data are expected to be front and center. At 8:30 a.m. ET, housing starts, building permits and the Business Leaders Survey are all scheduled to be released, followed by industrial production data at 9:15 a.m. ET. Finally consumer sentiment and Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) are due out at 10 a.m. ET. Tiffany is due to report its latest earnings report before the bell. Meantime, Friday marks quadruple-witching day and quadruple-witching hour, where during the final hour of market trading, stock index futures, index options, stock options, and single-stock futures expire. Most Asian markets closed mixed on the last day of the trading week amid a backdrop of global trade-related developments and political news out of Washington. In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 gave up earlier gains to close lower by 0.58 percent, or 127.44 points, at 21,676.51. Despite those losses, the benchmark finished the week up 1 percent. Meanwhile, in Seoul, the Kospi finished the day higher by 0.06 percent at 2,493.97 as Samsung Electronics pared steeper losses seen earlier to close lower by 0.78 percent. Greater China markets were downbeat, with Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index lower by 0.44 percent by 3:03 p.m. HK/SIN. China Unicomadvanced 1.68 percent ahead of the market close, but those gains were unable to lift the broader index as property names and the energy sector drove losses. The Shanghai composite shed 0.63 percent to end at 3,270.39 and the smaller Shenzhen composite edged down 0.61 percent to close at 1,863.03. The large-cap CSI 300 index fell 0.96 percent, with technology, consumer and materials among the worst-performing sectors. Oil prices were set to fall this week, with both benchmarks dropping slightly on Friday, on concerns among investors about rising supply from the U.S. and other nations threatening to undermine efforts by OPEC and other producers to tighten the market. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) oil futures for April delivery fell 3 cents, or 0.1 percent, to $61.16 a barrel at 0354 GMT, after settling up 23 cents on Thursday. WTI is set to fall 1.4 percent this week, reversing the previous week's 1.3 percent gain. Brent crude futures trading in London fell 7 cents to $65.05 a barrel after settling up 23 cents. Brent is down 0.7 percent for the week. Gold prices edged higher on Friday, supported by a weaker dollar and safe-haven demand amid U.S. political concerns and tensions between the United Kingdom and Russia. However, further gains were capped by expectations that the U.S. Federal Reserve would raise interest rates at its policy meeting next week. Spot gold was up 0.2 percent at $1,317.97 per ounce as of 0821 GMT. U.S. gold futures for April delivery were little changed at $1,317.80.