US stocks poised for gains ahead of Federal Reserve minutes

US stocks are set to head higher at open ahead of the release of the minutes from the Federal Reserve’s December meeting, says Kam Patel.


The Fed's Janet Yellen: investors are looking for clues about when she will raise interest rates

US stocks are seen heading higher at open, but early action in New York is likely to be tempered ahead of the release of Fed Reserve minutes from its December meeting and some key employment data for that month.

Late morning futures were indicating that the S&P 500 will open 12 points higher at 2,014, with the Dow Jones 95 points higher at 17,466 and the Nasdaq ahead 23 points at 4,133.

Jasper Lawler, analyst at CMC Markets, says investors will be looking to see if the Federal Reserve minutes can provide further clues on the timing of a rate rise.

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In December the Fed signalled a shift in its stance on rates by saying it would be "patient" in deciding when to increase. That replaced its previous policy of keeping rates low for "a considerable time".

An employment report for December from ADP, the biggest payroll processor in the US, will also be watched. It is expected to show that around 227,000 jobs were added in the final month of 2014.

Investors will continue to keep a close eye on oil prices, with both Brent and West Texas Intermediate crude oil contracts now having dipped below $50 per barrel in recent days.

Lawler notes, however, that markets have pushed Brent back well above $51 per barrel on the possibility of a change in Opec policy stemming from the rumoured passing of the King of Saudi Arabia.

He adds: "There is no doubt $50/barrel is a big psychological level so with prices having dipped below and flushed out any weak longs, there is a good chance of a bear market rally, especially if oil inventories released today imply firmer demand."

On the corporate front, Lawler reckons Twitter will be in focus having moved higher yesterday on the suggestion from former Yahoo chief executive Ross Levinsohn that the social media giant should buy Yahoo to combine the respective media empires to take on the mainstream. "It appears to be merely a suggestion at this point with neither company likely to comment on it," says Lawler.

Apple is also likely to be under scrutiny after it announced it has been granted a patent for a flexible portable device that can fold in half. This could be the future of the smartphone as the "phablet" develops into a tablet that will fold to fit into your pocket.

Kam Patel

Kam is a former deputy editor at Hemscott Invest and online editor, City A.M and he was also previously the Digital Editor at IFA Magazine. Kam is currently a senior journalist at The Global Treasurer and contributes to MoneyWeek. Kam shares expertise on the FTSE 100, investing and global stocks.