European stock markets are expected to open marginally higher Friday, with investors wary of taking positions ahead of a highly anticipated speech by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.
At 2:05 AM ET (0605 GMT), the DAX futures contract in Germany traded 0.1% higher, the FTSE 100 futures contract in the U.K. rose 0.1%, while the CAC 40 futures in France were largely flat.
The Jackson Hole symposium, the Fed’s annual research conference for central bankers, is being held virtually this year, because of the Covid-19 virus, and has been the focus of the market all week as it has been often used by Fed policymakers in the past to provide guidance on future policy.
Powell is set to speak at 10 AM ET (1400 GMT), and his comments is expected to sketch a rough timeline for tapering the Fed’s bond-buying program. This would mark the beginning of the end for the central bank’s unprecedented monetary support in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard said on Thursday that the Fed is “coalescing” around a plan to begin cutting its $120 billion in monthly bond purchases, while his counterpart at the Kansas City Fed Esther George added her voice to calls for tapering “sooner rather than later.”
Also prompting caution Friday was the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan after suicide bomb explosions outside the Kabul airport late Thursday killed numerous civilians and at least 13 U.S. soldiers.
Back in Europe, French and Italian consumer confidence releases are due during the session, and are expected to show a slight drop as Covid cases rise, while the earnings slate is quiet.
Asian shares were set for their best week since February on Friday as Chinese markets cheered a burst of central bank liquidity although broader enthusiasm was capped ahead of what could be a pivotal speech by the U.S. central bank chief.
U.S. stock futures were up 0.2% in Asian hours, suggesting some optimism after sentiment on Thursday was dented by a deadly attack in Afghanistan, and after the Federal Reserve’s more hawkish policymakers urged an end to stimulus.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.17%, up 3.78% on the week, which would be its best week since February, while Japan’s Nikkei shed 0.46%.
Chinese blue chips rose 0.45%, a reversal of recent weeks in which mainland stocks have weighed on the region, as investors took comfort in the central bank’s biggest weekly cash injection into the banking system since February. Hong Kong’s benchmark rose 0.15%.
Recent regulatory crackdowns have roiled sectors from property to tech and wiped half a trillion dollars from China’s markets in last week alone.
“A-shares (onshore Chinese shares) and Hong Kong are taking a break after some pretty extreme movements in the last two weeks,” said Qi Wang, CEO of MegaTrust Investment (HK).
Oil prices rose on Friday, on track to post big gains for the week, on worries about supply disruptions as energy companies began shutting in production in the Gulf of Mexico ahead of a potential hurricane forecast to hit on the weekend.
“Energy traders are pushing crude prices higher in anticipation of disruptions in output in the Gulf of Mexico and on growing expectations OPEC+ might resist raising output given the recent Delta variant impact over crude demand,” Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA told Reuters.
Brent crude futures rose 98 cents, or 1.4%, to $72.05 a barrel at 0542 GMT, after falling 1.6% on Thursday.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures climbed 93 cents, or 1.4%, to $68.35 a barrel, clawing back a 1.4% loss on Thursday.
For the week, Brent is on track for a rise of nearly 11% this week, its biggest weekly jump since June 2020. WTI is headed for a weekly gain of nearly 10%, which would be its strongest rise since August 2020.
Companies started airlifting workers from Gulf of Mexico oil production platforms on Thursday and BHP and BP (NYSE:BP) said they have begun to stop production at offshore platforms as a storm brewing in the Caribbean Sea was forecast to barrel through the Gulf on the weekend.
Gulf of Mexico offshore wells account for 17% of U.S. crude oil production and 5% of dry natural gas production. Over 45% of total U.S. refining capacity lies along the Gulf Coast.
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