Stock Futures Largely Unchanged; Powell Speech Key

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Investing.com – U.S. stocks are set to open largely unchanged Wednesday, consolidating after posting more highs on Tuesday, with investors staying cautious ahead of a key U.S. Federal Reserve symposium.

At 7:10 AM ET (1110 GMT), S&P 500 Futures traded flat, the Dow Futures contract fell 57 points, or 0.2%, while Nasdaq 100 Futures gained 43 points, or 0.4%. 

All eyes will be on Fed Chairman Jerome Powell when he speaks on Thursday to the central bank’s Jackson Hole conference, being held virtually this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

He is expected to provide an update on the Fed’s review of its policies and practices, with many anticipating he will provide a framework which sees U.S. interest rates staying lower for longer.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if interest rates are still zero five years from now,” said Jason Furman, a former chief White House economist and now Harvard University professor, in a Bloomberg report.

Tuesday saw a mixed trading session on Wall Street, as a rare pullback in Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) stock hurt the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which fell 60 points, or 0.2%. However, the S&P 500 gained 0.4% and the NASDAQ Composite jumped 0.8%, both settling in record territory.

Investors have been buoyed in recent days by signs the country is getting to grips with the Covid-19 outbreak, with daily cases now at 60% of the levels seen at the peak in July, and the Trump administration aggressively promoting new treatments. 

On top of this, the U.S. and China stressed they saw ‘progress’ in the latest trade talks, despite the fraught nature of the relationship between the two countries.

That said, U.S. economic data has been mixed, with consumer confidence dropping to a more than six-year low Tuesday, overshadowing a boom in new home sales. Last week, the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits unexpectedly climbed back above one million.

Durable goods data are out at 8:30 AM ET (1230 GMT), with expectations pointing to slowing growth from the previous month.

The retail sector has more earnings scheduled Wednesday, with jeweler Tiffany & Co (NYSE:TIF), Dick’s Sporting Goods (NYSE:DKS) and Williams-Sonoma (NYSE:WSM), which sells kitchen-wares and home furnishings, all set to report numbers.

Oil prices were lower Wednesday, consolidating after settling at five-month highs Tuesday as U.S. producers prepared for the onslaught of Hurricane Laura by shutting operations.

Laura is expected to make landfall late Wednesday or early Thursday along the Texas-Louisiana coast, a region that includes nearly half of U.S. refining capacity, as a Category 4 hurricane, according to the National Hurricane Center. 

Eyes will also be on the official U.S. inventory data later Wednesday, after the American Petroleum Institute showed stockpiles fell more than expected last week.

U.S. crude futures traded 0.4% lower at $43.17 a barrel, while the international benchmark Brent contract fell 0.2% to $46.18. 

Elsewhere, gold futures rose 0.1% to $1,924.90/oz, while EUR/USD traded 0.2% lower at 1.1812.

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