Wall Street shrugs off Greece fears, but weak data weighs

U.S. stock index futures signaled a higher open on Thursday, following gains in Europe on the back of strong bank earnings and a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine.

Futures trimmed some gains as retail sales for January came in weaker than expected, down 0.8 percent and near December’s 0.9 percent decline. Retail sales ex-autos declined 0.9 percent, though when excluding vehicles, gasoline and building materials, sales posted a moderate increase to 0.1 percent last month after a revised 0.3 percent drop in December.

“Bottom line, there is still no signs of a change in spending behavior due to the drop in gasoline sales, let alone from the big pick up in job growth. It seems that restaurant and bars are the only beneficiary as sales there were up 13.1 percent year-over-year,” Peter Boockvar, chief market analyst at The Lindsey Group said in a note.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Jobless claims were 304,000 last week, more than expected and an increase of 25,000 from last week.

Business inventories will be released at 10:00 a.m. ET.

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Major U.S. companies due to report ahead of market open include Dr. Pepper Snapple, Kellogg, McGraw-Hill Financial, Nielsen, Hospira, Avon Products, AllianceBernstein and Time. AIG, CBS, Kraft Foods, Groupon, King Digital and Zynga are all due after the bell.

European stocks were comfortably higher on Thursday after Swiss bank Credit Suisse and French lender Societe Generale posted jumps in their fourth-quarter net profit.

Read More SocGen profit shoots up, cuts Russia exposure

Shares in car maker Renault were also sharply higher after it reported a tripling of full-year profit last year and highlighted more improvement in the year ahead.

Aside from earnings, a ceasefire between Russia and Ukraine starting February 15 was agreed Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin said both leaders had agreed on withdrawal of heavy weapons from the east Ukraine region affected by the conflict between pro-Russian separatists and the Ukraine military.

However Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis’s meeting with other euro zone finance ministers did not yield a deal Wednesday. The finance ministers were unable to even agree on a joint statement on the next steps to take. Talks will resume Monday, but time is running out as Greece’s current bailout program ends on February 28.

Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas President Richard Fisher, who is due to retire in March, said he was favor of broad changes that would see power moved away from the New York Fed, in a speech on Wednesday.

Fisher, who was addressing a New York audience for likely the last time before stepping down, again warned against delaying an interest rate hike in the face of weak inflation, according to Reuters.

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