Wall Street set to open higher ahead of Jackson Hole meeting

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[August 24, 2017]  By Sruthi Shankar

(Reuters) - U.S. stocks were set to open higher on Thursday, buoyed by retail companies, although caution prevailed ahead of the start of the annual gathering of central bankers at Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and European Central Bank President Mario Draghi are scheduled to speak on Friday, although the likelihood of new policy messages from either are slim.

Nonetheless, their speeches will be perused for hints on the stand of each central bank, especially the Fed, on monetary policy and its path ahead.

"I don't think it is likely that something of possible significance will come out of Jackson Hole, but investors are looking for the world of powerful people sharing their insights and opinions," said Andre Bakhos, managing director at Janlyn Capital LLC in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

The Fed remains the only major central bank to have begun raising rates and it is also seeking to rationalize the huge stores of securities it has built while pumping cash into the economy in the past eight years.

"The investors, at this time, are really looking for a fresh theme," said Bakhos.

The central bankers' views will be a change from the past two weeks, when the stock market has been roiled by concerns over geopolitics, mayhem in Washington and President Donald Trump's controversial comments.

U.S. stocks closed lower on Wednesday as investors grappled with a threat from Trump to shut down the government if funds are not secured to build a Mexico border wall comments that came as a late-September deadline looms for U.S. officials to raise the debt ceiling or risk a default.

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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., August 22, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

At 8:30 a.m. ET (1230 GMT), Dow e-minis <1YMc1> were up 56 points, or 0.26 percent, with 22,244 contracts changing hands.

S&P 500 e-minis were up 5.5 points, or 0.23 percent, with 157,727 contracts traded.

Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 19.75 points, or 0.34 percent, on volume of 33,819 contracts.

A report showed that the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits rose less than expected last week, suggesting a further tightening in labor market conditions.

Another report expected at 10:00 a.m. ET is likely to show that existing home sales rose in July.

Among stocks, shares of a slew of retailers rose after a round of strong quarterly reports.

Signet Jewelers surged about 18 percent after the company also said it would buy an online jeweler. Bigger rival Tiffany's shares rose about 3 percent to $91 after its results.

Dollar Tree shares rose 8.91 percent to $80.94 on strong profit and comparable sales.

Abercrombie & Fitch soared about 18 percent following the teen apparel retailer's smaller-than-expected loss.

However, Hormel Foods and J.M. Smucker fell about 6 percent each after the packaged foods makers reported disappointing results and cut their full-year forecasts.

(Reporting by Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D'Souza)

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