Thursday March 8th


US stocks set for slight gains as investors wait for more news on tariffs

U.S. stock index futures rose slightly ahead of Thursday's open, as investors awaited more news surrounding the U.S.' tariff plans. Around 6:55 a.m. ET, Dow futures traded 1 point higher, whilte S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures rose 4.75 points and 28 points, respectively. The moves in pre-market trade come after Wall Street closed relatively mixed, but well off session lows on Wednesday. In the political space, announcements surrounding tariffs continue to keep investors on edge. On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said at a news briefing that President Donald Trump would likely formalize any details on his tariff proposals, including exemptions, later on this week. "We expect that the president will sign something by the end of the week, and there are potential carve-outs for Mexico and Canada based on national security, and possibly other countries as well," the press secretary said. Ahead of the all-important nonfarm payrolls data due out on Friday, investors will be poring over initial claims data, due out at 8:30 a.m. ET on Thursday and the Quarterly Services Survey, due out at 10 a.m. ET. Overseas, the European Central Bank is due to deliver its latest monetary policy decisions before the opening bell. The central bank is expected to remain cautious, in order to prevent any unwanted tightening of financing conditions. Markets in Asia closed higher on Thursday, with stocks clawing back gains after sliding in the last session on trade-related fears. Gains in the region came after U.S. stocks closed above session lows on fresh developments related to planned metals tariffs. The benchmark Nikkei 225 index rose 0.54 percent, or 115.35 points, to close at 21,368.07 and the Topix closed up 0.35 percent. Elsewhere, South Korea's Kospi advanced 1.3 percent to close at 2,433.08 on a strong showing in the technology space. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index jumped 1.69 percent, or 509.64 points, by 3:05 p.m. HK/SIN as all of its sectors traded in positive territory. Mainland China markets closed higher, with gains steepening after the release of upbeat trade data. The Shanghai composite added 0.54 percent to close at 3,289.29 and the Shenzhen composite rose 1.01 percent to finish at 1,856.47. Oil prices were broadly steady on Thursday but still set to slip over the week for the second time in a row against a backdrop of rising U.S. crude production and an increase in inventories. Brent crude futures were down 3 cents at $64.31 per barrel by 1005 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were up 3 cents at $61.18 a barrel. Gold steadied on Thursday as uncertainty ahead of a European Central Bank policy meeting and further news on U.S. trade tariffs kept the metal in a narrow range, though a stronger dollar pressured prices. The dollar firmed after the White House indicated that key trading partners could be exempt from the steel and aluminium import tariffs it proposed last week. Spot gold was at $1,325.69 an ounce by 1025 GMT, little changed from late on Wednesday, when it rose to a one-week high of $1,340.42 before closing 0.6 percent lower. U.S. gold futures were down 0.1 percent at $1,326.40. ABN Amro analyst Georgette Boele said the dollar would remain the key driver of gold prices in the near term.