By Abhiram Nandakumar
REUTERS – U.S. stock indexes were set to open higher on Wednesday, setting the stage for a third straight day of gains as oil prices rose and investors snatched up beaten-down shares.
Wall Street closed with solid gains on Tuesday, with the benchmark S&P 500 index staging its best two-day gain since late August.
Still, the S&P 500 has fallen 7.3 percent this year due to slumping oil prices, fears of a China-led slowdown in global growth and uncertainty about central bank policies.
Investors will watch oil as a barometer of broader market sentiment on Wednesday, in particular how a proposal from top exporters Russia and Saudi Arabia to freeze output is greeted by Iran, which is determined to raise production.
The price of Brent crude oil, a major international benchmark, was up 3.1 percent $ 33.19 per barrel. [O/R]
Investors will also parse the minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s January meeting – due at 2 p.m. ET (1800 GMT) – for insight into the central bank’s view on the effects of recent turmoil in global markets on the U.S. economy.
Fed Chair Janet Yellen has maintained that the central bank is still likely to raise rates in 2016.
However, traders have all but written off the chance of further rate hikes this year, with Fed funds futures suggesting the next increase will be in February 2017.
“On a temporary basis, we believe the markets will stay in a tight trading range,” said Chad Morganlander, portfolio manager at Stifel, Nicolaus & Co in Florham Park, New Jersey.
The acceptance of accommodative monetary policy in Europe, relative stability in the Chinese yuan, and the agreement of oil producers to stabilize production has helped calm frayed nerves globally, Morganlander said.
“We do not see, for the moment, additional selling pressure in the coming week as market speculators absorb this much-needed mood,” he said.
At 8:32 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 111 points, or 0.69 percent, with 45,946 contracts traded. S&P 500 e-minis were up 13.75 points, or 0.73 percent, with 291,178 contracts exchanged while Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 39 points, or 0.95 percent, on volume of 44,112 contracts.
Shares of pipeline operator Kinder Morgan were up 10 percent to $ 17.18 premarket after Berkshire Hathaway disclosed a stake in the company.
Fossil was up 12.4 percent at $ 38.70 after the watchmaker’s quarterly results beat estimates.
Priceline was 11.3 percent higher at $ 1,236 after the travel websites operator’s quarterly profit beat expectations.
Shares of heavy equipment and crane maker Terex rose 5.2 percent to $ 21.50 after China’s Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science and Technology Co confirmed it had made an offer valuing the company at about $ 3 billion.
A report showed that U.S. housing starts unexpectedly fell to 1.099 million units in January, likely due to bad weather that disrupted building projects in some parts of the country.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast that starts would rise to an annual pace of 1.17 million-units.
A report on industrial production in January, due at 9:15 a.m., is expected to show output rose 0.4 percent, the first increase in four months.
(Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan and Abhiram Nandakumar in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D’Souza and Ted Kerr)