Stocks inch higher before key news

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Stocks are inching higher today as investors prepare for key economic data and a big announcement from the Federal Reserve.

S&P 500 futures are up by about one-tenth of a percent. Markets are closed in Europe and China in observance of May Day, though Japan's Nikkei fell almost half a percent overnight. Commodities are weak.

ADP reports its private-sector survey for April at 8:15 a.m. ET, followed by the Institute for Supply Management's manufacturing index at 10 a.m. ET. Both have the potential to move the market, and both missed expectations last month.

The Federal Reserve's policy announcement follows at 2 p.m. ET. While everyone expects the central bank to keep interest rates unchanged, investors will analyze the central bank's statement carefully for indications of further stimulus.

The news will arrive after the S&P 500 made a new record closing high for the second straight session yesterday. Investors have been piling into equities despite some indications that economic growth is weakening as years of pessimism lift.

optionMONSTER's researchLAB market screener also shows sentiment shifting in favor of more aggressive investments over the last week, which breaks a theme of caution that had prevailed earlier in 2013. Technology, materials, and energy, for instance, are the leading sectors in the last five sessions, while health care and consumer staples lag. The opposite has been true so far this year.

Currencies are mostly bullish, with the euro higher and the Japanese yen lower, but commodities are bearish. Oil, copper, and silver are all posting losses of 1 percent to 2 percent, while gold is down by half a percent. Agricultural products are mostly lower as well.

In company-specific news, Comcast is up slightly after reporting better-than-expected profit. Drug maker Merck is down 3 percent after missing consensus forecasts on the top line and lowering full-year guidance. Movie studio Dreamworks Animation, which had seen bullish call buying last week, is indicated to open almost 9 percent higher after earnings and revenue beat expectations.


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