Investing.com – Wall Street futures pointed to a flat open on Thursday as investors looked ahead to the European Central Bank’s monetary policy decision, U.S. labor market data and the most recent read of U.S. inventories.
The blue-chip Dow futures slipped 7 points, or 0.03%, at 6:42AM ET (10:42GMT), the S&P 500 futures rose less than a point, or 0.01%, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 futures edged forward 6 points, or 0.10%.
The day’s main event will be the ECB’s decision on interest rates before the U.S. market open at 7:45AM ET (11:45GMT).
With policy expected to remain unchanged, the major focus will be on ECB president Mario Draghi's press conference 45 minutes after the announcement, as investors look for more clues on when and how the ECB could start unwinding its massive quantitative easing program.
Expectations as most experts believe that Draghi will hold off until October to make an unofficial announcement, though markets are looking for the ECB chief to perhaps give hints that the euro zone monetary authority is discussing policy opinions for tapering asset purchases.
Any remarks on the strength of the euro will also be under the microscope as the cause of what is expected to be a slight reduction to ECB inflation forecasts at the same time it may increase its growth outlook.
With regard to U.S. monetary policy, investors will keep an eye on a string of appearances from Federal Reserve officials who will be speaking Thursday evening on the economy.
Atlanta Fed president Raphael Bostic and New York Fed chief William Dudley will be speaking at separate venues at 7:00PM ET (23:00GMT) while Kansas City Fed president Esther George will speak at 8:15PM ET (00:15GMT Friday).
Traders will also pay close attention to the release of official U.S. crude inventory data at 11:00AM ET (15:00GMT) with expectations for a build of 4.022 million barrels.
After markets closed Wednesday, the American Petroleum Institute said that U.S. oil inventories rose by about 2.8 million barrels in the week ended September 1, missing expectations for a 4 million barrel increase.
Traders are also keeping an eye on Hurricane Irma, ranked as one of the five most powerful Atlantic hurricanes in the last 80 years.
The Category 5 hurricane battered Puerto Rico and devastated a chain of small Caribbean islands late on Wednesday and is expected to hit Florida by Sunday afternoon, a prospect that has roiled orange juice and gasoline futures markets as well as shares of insurance providers.
Elsewhere, global stock markets were mostly higher, as appetite for riskier assets improved after U.S. President Donald Trump and congressional leaders unexpectedly agreed on Wednesday to raise the government debt limit until December.
The agreement led Wall Street to close higher a day earlier with positive sentiment spilling over to Asia. Equities there closed Thursday on a relatively mixed to positive note, with benchmarks in Tokyo and Seoul closing higher, while markets in mainland China slumped.
European stocks registered solid gains ahead of the ECB decision and Draghi’s press conference. At 6:46AM ET (10:46GMT), the European benchmark Euro Stoxx 50 gained 0.85%, Germany’s DAX rose 1.03%, while London's FTSE 100 traded up 0.40%.
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