Market Snapshot: Stock-index futures point to higher start for Wall Street

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Stock-index futures posted moderate gains Friday, pointing to a positive start for Wall Street as investors continue to monitor noises around U.S.-China trade talks and track developments around a whistleblower complaint against President Donald Trump, who is facing an impeachment inquiry in the House.

What are major indexes doing?

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average YMZ19, +0.28%  rose 63 points or 0.2%, to 26,956, while S&P 500 futures ESZ19, +0.34%  gained 8.75 points, or 0.3%, to trade at 2,989.50. Nasdaq-100 futures NQZ19, +0.30%  were up 19.25 points, or 0.2%, at 7,806.25.

The Dow DJIA, -0.30%  on Thursday gave up 79.59 points, or 0.3%, to end at 26,891.12, while the S&P 500 SPX, -0.24%  lost 7.25 points or 0.2%, to finish at 2,977.62. The Nasdaq COMP, -0.58%  closed at 8,030.66, down 46.72 points, or 0.6%.

What’s driving the market?

The weaker tone on Thursday was tied in part to a news report that the Trump administration was unlikely to extend a waiver that allows U.S. companies to make sales to China telecom firm Huawei, potentially stoking trade tensions.

But futures were lifted after a report that a date for U.S.-China trade talks has been set. CNBC reported that top negotiators are set to meet Oct. 10-11 in Washington, with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He to lead the delegation from Beijing. Also, news reports said Chinese officials have talked about increased purchases of U.S. goods.

“With President Trump heavily focused on the impeachment proceedings and the unidentified whistleblower, markets are expecting this long process to possibly provide added incentive to see a trade deal get done before Thanksgiving,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda, in a note.

But skeptics said they remained unconvinced after numerous swings between conciliation and escalation over the course of the U.S.-China trade battle stretching back to spring of last year.

“We have been here before,” said Bas van Geffen, quantitative analyst at Rabobank.

Fundamental issues, including intellectual property rights, remain unaddressed so far, van Geffen said in a note, adding that Trump may be reluctant to create the appearance he’s growing soft on China ahead of the 2020 elections — a risk he runs if an intermediate deal doesn’t sufficiently address fundamental U.S. concerns.

“We are not convinced that renewed trade talks will lead to the results the market may once again be hoping for, and any optimism ahead of the October meeting may be fleeting,” he said.

A whistleblower report released on Thursday alleged that President Donald Trump attempted to coerce Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden, and that White House officials acted to conceal evidence of his actions. The controversy around the report prompted House Democrats this week to launch a formal impeachment inquiry.

The whistleblower report and impeachment concerns have had only a fleeting at most effect on markets so far, analysts said, but could become a factor if the outlook for Trump’s presidency darkens.

On the corporate front, Wells Fargo & Co. WFC, -0.79%  announced Friday that it hired Charles Scharf as chief executive, ending a six-month search for a new chief. Scharf was most recently chairman and CEO of Bank of New York Mellon Corp. BK, -0.55%. Shares of Wells Fargo rose 1.4% in premarket activity.

Shares of Micron Technology Inc. MU, -1.76%  will be in focus after the memory-chip maker reported another large earnings decline and predicted a disappointing holiday season. Micron shares were under pressure in premarket action.

What’s on the economic calendar?

The economic calendar is crowded. Data on August durable goods orders is due at 8:30 a.m. Eastern, with economists surveyed by MarketWatch looking for a 0.7% fall in headline figure. Separately, August data on personal income and spending is also scheduled for 8:30 a.m., with economists looking for a 0.5% rise in income, a 0.3% increase in spending, and a 0.1% rise in core inflation.

A September consumer-sentiment index reading is due at 10 a.m. Eastern.

Also, Randal Quarles, the Federal Reserve vice chairman for banking supervision, is scheduled to speak abut macroprudential regulation at 8:30 a.m. Eastern in Washington, while Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker is slated to deliver a speech in New York at noon Eastern.