Tuesday March 20th


US stocks set for a positive open ahead of Fed meeting

U.S. stock index futures were lower on Tuesday, but pointed to slight gains at the open, after U.S. equities pulled back in the previous session led by a sell-off of Facebook shares. Dow Jones industrial average futures fell 17 points, but indicated a rise of 45.09 points at the open. S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures also indicated gains at the open. Facebook lost 6.8 percent on Monday after reports that an analytics firm, Cambridge Analytica, collected data from 50 million profiles without the users' permission. The firm worked with the tech giant on campaign ads for President Donald Trump. Policymakers have raised concerns over Facebook's data usage, raising fears that tougher data protection rules will be implemented across the industry. Investors will also track developments on trade, as the European Union's trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom heads to Washington Tuesday in an attempt to get European countries excludes from metal tariffs. Meanwhile, European equities traded higher on earnings, while Asia closed mixed. Money managers in the Asian region are worried that President Trump will move ahead with further tariffs on China, once an investigation into intellectual property rights is released later this month by the U.S. trade department. In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 shed 0.47 percent, or 99.93 points, to close at 21,380.97, tracking declines seen stateside, but paring some of the more than 200-point losses seen earlier. Elsewhere, Seoul's benchmark Kospi reversed losses to close up 0.42 percent at 2,485.52. The Hang Seng Index tacked on 0.12 percent by 3:08 p.m. HK/SIN as gains in technology and consumer goods names were partially offset by losses in financials. On the mainland, the Shanghai composite edged up 0.34 percent to close at 3,290.46 and the Shenzhen composite added 0.23 percent to end at 1,872.33. In the meantime, markets will also monitor the latest meeting of the Federal Reserve. Policymakers start their two-day meeting Tuesday — the first to be headed up by the newly appointed Chair Jerome Powell. The expectations are that the central bank will increase interest rates. But investors will also look for clues as to how many rate rises the Fed could announce this year. In terms of economic data, the March Philadelphia Fed manufacturing numbers will be out at 8:30 a.m. ET time. The earnings front is  thin with FedEx and Steelcase reporting after the bell. On the auctions front, there will be 4-week bills totaling $6 billion to be sold Tuesday. Oil prices rose by almost 1 percent on Tuesday, lifted by a weak dollar, tensions in the Middle East and concerns of a further fall in Venezuelan output. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were at $62.61 a barrel at 0744 GMT, up 55 cents, or 0.9 percent, from their previous close. Brent crude futures were at $66.53 per barrel, up 48 cents, or 0.7 percent. Gold edged lower on Tuesday as the dollar firmed while traders waited to gauge the path of U.S. monetary policy for the rest of the year from the two-day Federal Reserve meeting that kicks off later in the day. Spot gold was down 0.1 percent to $1,314.98 per ounce at 0758 GMT. In the previous session, it touched $1,307.51 an ounce, its lowest since March 1. U.S. gold futures for April delivery dropped 0.2 percent to $1,314.70 per ounce.