July 12, 2019 / 11:53 AM / 9 days ago

US STOCKS-Futures push higher on rate cut optimism

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* Futures up: Dow 0.31%, S&P 0.22%, Nasdaq 0.26%

By Amy Caren Daniel

July 12 (Reuters) - U.S. stock index futures rose slightly on Friday, with Wall Street looking set to extend this week’s strong run after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s dovish remarks boosted bets of an interest rate cut this month.

In his two-day testimony before Congress, Powell said the U.S. economy was still under threat from disappointing factory activity, tame inflation and a simmering trade war and that the Fed stood ready to “act as appropriate.”

“Jerome Powell spoke in Washington DC on Wednesday and Thursday, and the take away message is the U.S. central bank is considering cutting interest rates, and that is helping stocks around the world,” said David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets in UK.

The S&P 500 index traded above the 3,000 level for a second day in a row on Thursday, with stronger-than-expected U.S. inflation data failing to shake expectations of a rate cut.

Keeping investors on edge was uncertainty on U.S.-China trade. In the latest evidence that the trade dispute was impacting growth, data showed that China’s exports fell in June and imports shrank more than expected.

Meanwhile, China threatened sanctions on U.S. firms that sell arms to Taiwan after Washington approved possible sales of $2.2 billion in tanks, missiles and related equipment.

U.S. Treasury yields ticked higher, extending Thursday’s gains after an auction of $16 billion 30-year bonds saw weak demand.

Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Goldman Sachs Group rose between 0.5% and 1% in premarket trading. The shares were also boosted after Citigroup raised price targets for the lenders ahead of earnings next week.

At 7:10 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 83 points, or 0.31%. S&P 500 e-minis were up 6.5 points, or 0.22% and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 20.75 points, or 0.26%.

Second-quarter earnings season start next week against the backdrop of warnings of the trade war hurting corporate profits. S&P 500 companies are expected to report a 0.4% dip in profits from a year earlier, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

Also on the radar is another set of inflation data. The Labor Department’s report on underlying U.S. producer prices at 8:30 a.m. ET is expected to show producer price index final demand remained flat in June, compared with a 0.1% gain in May.

Among other stocks, gene sequencing company Illumina Inc tumbled 16.1% after its preliminary second-quarter revenue came in below estimates.

Ford Motor Co rose 0.7% after Reuters reported that the automaker’s self-driving unit Argo was set to get a $2.6 billion investment from Volkswagen AG. (Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

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