World Economy

Wall Street Jittery

Wall Street JitteryWall Street Jittery

U.S. stock-index futures signaled a softer open on Wednesday as investors face another day of big-name technology and bank earnings, amid speculation that the European Central Bank will announce a new stimulus package Thursday.

Stock futures maintained losses after data showing US housing starts climbed more than expected in December in a hopeful sign for the sluggish housing-market recovery, CNBC reported.

United Health Group rose in early New York trading after posting a better-than-expected fourth-quarter profit; International Business Machines dropped as investors fixated on a less-than-expected forecast for 2015 and Netflix rallied after reporting an adjusted quarterly profit well above estimates.

Investors are also on standby ahead of the ECB meeting, with a full-scale bond-buying program considered likely. Analysts expect the ECB Governing Council to agree on a package of at least 500 billion euros (circa 5 percent of GDP). European stocks traded flat to lower ahead of the meeting.

  Oil Drop

What had looked like a good thing for consumers and their disposable income with the falling price of oil has shifted to hand-wringing amid stories of what crude’s drop means for the global economy and capital spending.

On Wednesday, Crude-oil futures for March delivery rose 79 cents, or 1.7 percent, to $47.26 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gold futures for February gained $6.80, or 0.5 percent, to $1,301.00 an ounce.

In the UK, the Bank of England voted unanimously to keep rates on hold this month for the first time since July last year. Two members of the bank’s Monetary Policy Committee that voted for a rate rise in previous months said a hike now could dent the already below-target inflation rate.

  Bonds Fall

Bonds fell from Germany to Italy after a European Central Bank official cooled speculation on expanding stimulus. Stocks dropped from a seven-year high and US equity-index futures declined while the yen strengthened.

The yield on 10-year German bunds jumped four basis points to 0.49 percent at 8:32 a.m. in New York. The Stoxx Europe 600 Index and Standard & Poor’s 500 Index futures both lost 0.3 percent. The yen climbed 1.3 percent to 117.31 versus the dollar as the Bank of Japan kept asset purchases steady and cut its inflation forecast. The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index slipped 0.4 percent. Gold rose with oil.

 The yield on 10-year French notes rose five basis points to 0.70 percent and the rate on Italian notes added seven basis points to 1.74 percent. Spain’s yield jumped five basis points to 1.57 percent.