Stock-market futures edge higher, JPM set to gain after results

Stock SectorApril 13, 201816min7

U.S. stock-index futures moved a step higher on Friday, gaining as JP Morgan Chase & Co reported an earnings boost, lifting shares in premarket, with equities lined up to stay on track for respectable weekly gains.

Futures had been swaying between small gains and losses, with investors watching for developments in the U.S.-China trade spat and around the potential for U.S.-led military action against Syria.

Also reporting Friday, Citigroup Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co.; investors will also get a consumer-sentiment update.

Need to know:This jumpy stock market may have found a bottom—here’s why

What are the main benchmarks doing?

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average

YMM8, +0.60%

 added 61 points, or 0.3%, to 24,520, while those for the S&P 500

ESM8, +0.54%

rose 8.5 points to 2,672.50, a gain of 0.3%. Nasdaq-100 futures

NQM8, +0.45%

 were up 8.5 points, or 0.1%, to 6,680.

The major indexes finished sharply higher on Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average

DJIA, +1.21%

 advancing 293.60 points, or 1.2%, to close at 24,483.05. The S&P 500 index

SPX, +0.83%

rose by 21.80 points, or 0.8%, to finish at 2,663.99, and the Nasdaq Composite Index

COMP, +1.01%

 rose 71,22 points, or 1%, to end at 7,140.25.

Major indexes have trended to the upside recently, rising in six of the past eight sessions. As of Thursday, the Dow and S&P 500 were each headed for weekly gains of 2.3%, and the Nasdaq, for a rise of around 3.3%.

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And see:Geopolitical risk matters again—here’s what it means for the markets

What’s driving markets

Earnings could prove a bright spot for investors who were looking ahead to a weekend that could bring fresh stress for markets, via concerns around U.S. politics and trade with China. Traders were still assessing another focal point of stress for equities this week—potential U.S. action against the Syrian government.

The White House plans to step up pressure on China to make trade concessions, via a plan for fresh tariffs and a threat to block Chinese technology investments in the U.S., according to a report. Details of which Chinese products are on the hit-list of $100 billion in tariffs could be revealed as soon as next week. For its part, China is considering lining up allies, such as Europe, against the U.S.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump has directed senior aides to look into the possibility of joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which could pose a further challenge to China.

The trade imbalance between the world’s two biggest economies grew, data out Friday showed, as China posted a sharp jump in its trade surplus with the U.S. That rise came even as China logged its first overall monthly trade deficit in 13 months.

As for tensions around Syria, the U.S. is working with allies on broad plans for unified military action against the country’s government, in response to a suspected chemical-weapons attack on civilians. Trump rattled equity markets earlier in the week, with a tweet hinting that an attack could be imminent.

But Defense Secretary Jim Mattis joined Trump in sounding a calmer note on the situation, saying the U.S. and its allies had to be careful not to draw Syria’s backers Russia and Iran into a wider conflict. At the same time, Moscow’s ambassador to the U.N. warned Thursday that airstrikes could spark a U.S.-Russia war, given presence of Russian troops in Syria, the BBC reported.

Closer to home, an interview with former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey will air on ABC News on Sunday. Comey is expected to discuss his upcoming book, which reportedly includes an unflattering look at Trump’s presidency. Some news organizations have already published excerpts, in which Comey paints Trump as an “unethical” pathological liar.

Read:Head of the world’s largest asset management firm says this is key for stock-market investors

What are analysts saying?

“Any indication that strikes in Syria are likely over the weekend could trigger risk aversion into the close in case of a negative fallout in the markets at the open next week,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda.

Which stocks look like key movers?

JPMorganJPM, +2.49%

climbed 0.7% in premarket after posting a first-quarter profit rise of 35% to top Wall Street estimates.

Still to come, Wells FargoWFC, +1.48%

 and CitigroupC, +3.21%

 are forecast to post a rise in earnings compared with a year ago. An income boost from the new tax bill and the boost to business from the stock market volatility should help lift earnings, some analysts say.

Read:Expect a strong first quarter for bank earnings, but more questions lie ahead

Zillow Group Inc.

Z, +0.73%

 shares fell 6.7% in premarket trading. The real estate listings company said Thursday it will get into the business of buying and flipping homes, which is considered by some to be high risk.

SeaWorld Entertainment Inc.

SEAS, -0.77%

 shares could be active after posting losses late Thursday. The move came as the theme-park operator disclosed notice of possible civil action from the Securities and Exchange Commission. Inc.AMZN, +1.50%

 share slipped 0.5% in premarket trading. Trump issued a surprise executive order Thursday night calling for look at the U.S. Postal Service’s finances and operations, along with its position in the package delivery industry. Trump has blamed Amazon in recent weeks for the woes of the USPS and charging that the company isn’t paying enough tax.

What is on the economic docket?

A reading on the consumer sentiment index for April is due at 10 a.m. Eastern Time, with a reading of 101.0 expected. A report on job openings in February is scheduled for release at the same time.

Three Federal Reserve officials are lined up to appear Friday. Boston Fed President Eric Rosengren is scheduled to talk about the economy and monetary policy at a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce event at 8:10 a.m. Eastern.

A little later, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard will speak on living standards across the U.S. at Washington University in St. Louis at 9 a.m. Eastern.

Dallas Fed President Rob Kaplan is expected to address the Odessa Chamber of Commerce luncheon in Texas at 1 p.m. Eastern.

Read:Fed must be on its toes after March CPI data show inflation warming up

What are other markets doing?

Asian stocks had a mixed session, while European stocks

SXXP, +0.49%

moved higher, on track for a third-straight week of gains.

Gold futures

GCM8, -0.11%GCM8, -0.11%

inched lower, while the ICE U.S. Dollar Index

DXY, +0.03%held steady.

Plus:Monetary authority buys more Hong Kong dollars amid weakening

Oil pricesCLK8, +0.00%

slipped, but hovered at fresh three-year highs.

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