U.S. Stocks May Show A Lack Of Direction In Early Trading

Following the volatility seen over the course of the previous session, stocks may continue to experience choppy trading on Friday. The major index futures are currently pointing to a roughly flat open for the markets, with the Dow futures down by just 1 point.

Upbeat earnings news from companies like Nvidia (NVDA) and Expedia (EXPE) generated some positive sentiment earlier this morning.

The futures have pulled back near the unchanged line, however, as traders keep an eye on the latest developments on the coronavirus front.

Nearly 64,000 people are now recorded as having been made ill by the virus in China, with the last two days showing a steep rise after a change in diagnostic methods.

Traders are also digesting a report from the Commerce Department showing U.S. retail sales increased in line with economist estimates in the month of January.

The Commerce Department said retail sales rose by 0.3 percent in January after edging up by a downwardly revised 0.2 percent in December.

Economists had expected retail sales to climb by 0.3 percent, matching the increase originally reported for the previous month.

Excluding sales by motor vehicles and parts dealers, retail sales still rose by 0.3 percent in January after climbing by 0.6 percent in December. Ex-auto sales were also expected to increase by 0.3 percent.

A separate report released by the Labor Department showed U.S. import prices came in flat in the month of January, while export prices unexpectedly showed a notable rebound.

The Labor Department said import prices were unchanged in January after rising by a downwardly revised 0.2 percent in December.

Economists had expected import prices to dip by 0.2 percent compared to the 0.3 percent increase originally reported for the previous month.

Meanwhile, the report said export prices climbed by 0.7 percent in January after slipping by 0.2 percent in December. Export prices had been expected to edge down by 0.1 percent.

Just before the start of trading, the Federal Reserve is scheduled to release its report on industrial production in the month of January. Economists expected industrial production to dip by 0.2 percent in January after falling by 0.3 percent in December.

The University of Michigan is due to release its preliminary reading on consumer sentiment in the month of February shortly after the start of trading. The consumer sentiment index is expected to edge down to 99.5 in February after inching up to 99.8 in January.

The Commerce Department is also scheduled to release its report on business inventories in the month of December. Business inventories are expected to inch up by 0.1 percent.

After coming under pressure early in the session, stocks fluctuated over the course of the trading day on Thursday. The Nasdaq and the S&P 500 recovered from the early weakness to reach new record intraday highs but eventually returned to negative territory.

The major averages all finished the session in the red. The Dow fell 128.11 points or 0.4 percent to 29,423.31, the Nasdaq edged down 13.99 points or 0.1 percent to 9,711.97 and the S&P 500 dipped 5.51 points or 0.2 percent to 3,373.94.

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance during trading on Friday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index slid by 0.6 percent, while China’s Shanghai Composite Index rose by 0.4 percent.

The major European markets have also turned mixed on the day. While the French CAC 40 Index is down by 0.1 percent, the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index is up by 0.1 percent and the German DAX Index is up by 0.2 percent.

In commodities trading, crude oil futures are climbing $0.68 to $52.10 a barrel after rising $0.25 to $51.42 a barrel on Thursday. Meanwhile, after advancing $7.20 to $1,678.80 an ounce in the previous session, gold futures are inching up $1.50 to $1,580.30 an ounce.

On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 109.76 yen versus the 109.82 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Thursday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.0854 compared to yesterday’s $1.0841.

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