Stock futures turn positive amid surge in oil prices, Ukraine conflict

Stock futures rose Wednesday morning as oil prices surged amid the intensifying conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 233 points, or 0.7%, the same gain as S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures. All three futures contracts had earlier traded in negative territory.

The moves came as oil prices trekked upward. Both US crude and international benchmark Brent crude futures rose about 4% each. West Texas Intermediate most recently traded at $107.50 and Brent was at $109.51, after trading at their highest levels in more than a decade.

After slumping in Tuesday trading, government bond yields surged Wednesday. The benchmark 10-year note most recently yielded close to 1.75%, a gain of 3.5 basis points after falling below 1.7% the day before.

However, investors remained on the edge as reports Wednesday indicated that Russian forces penetrated Kherson and have surrounded Mariupol, two key cities in the southern part of the country.

Markets also were digesting the State of the Union speech from President Joe Biden, who offered little in the way of new policy details while urging support for Ukraine and reiterating many of the goals for his domestic agenda.

“Some of the push for policies appeared to show his base he is still fighting for the issues they care about, but the reality remains that his political standing is perilous with an approval rating hovering around 40%,” wrote Ed Mills, Washington policy analyst for Raymond James.

Some corporate news helped point the session in a positive direction.

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Earnings boosted several stocks in extended trading. Nordstrom spiked by nearly 35% on strong earnings while SoFi surged around 18%.

In trading Tuesday, the Dow fell 597 points, or 1.76%. The S&P 500 lost 1.55% and the Nasdaq Composite slid 1.59%.

“This dramatic dislocation is due to a flight to safety where US production is viewed as more reliable than other global sources,” Jay Hatfield, founder and CEO of Infrastructure Capital Advisors, said of the spike in WTI. “However, it is unlikely to persist after the Ukraine situations stabilizes.”

Investors are keeping a close eye on oil prices, which could drive inflation, choke the economy and create challenges for the Federal Reserve when shaping policy.

Energy stocks were a bright spot in the market Tuesday, while bank stocks took a hit, dragged down by a sharp decline in Treasury yields, representing a rush into safe-haven bonds amid the stock market turmoil.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell will testify before Congress on Wednesday to give his semiannual monetary policy update. With fears over the Russian invasion of Ukraine causing turmoil in the financial world, Wall Street has quietly dialed down its expectations for Fed action.

Powell is now tasked with telling Congress this week that the central bank will be doing more to control inflation at a time when markets expect it will be doing less.

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Investors are also looking forward to employment data from ADP due out Wednesday, as well as mortgage application numbers. Dow Jones estimates the ADP report will show 400,000 new jobs for February, after indicating a decline of 301,000 in January.

Earnings season continues with several tech companies set to report on Wednesday. Okta, Pure Storage and C3 AI will report after the market closes. ChargePoint is also scheduled to report after the bell.

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Andrew Naughtie

News reporter and author at @websalespromo