Market Snapshot: Stock-index futures point higher ahead of retail sales data

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Stock-index futures pointed to gains Friday, ahead of a read on last month’s retail sales, as investors continue in their efforts to assess the state of U.S.-China trade talks.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average YMZ19, +0.25%  rose 64 points, or 0.2%, to 27,810, while S&P 500 futures ESZ19, +0.23%  gained 6.60 points, or 0.2%, to trade at 3,103.50. Nasdaq-100 futures NQZ19, +0.34%  gained 25.50 points, or 0.3%, to 8,291.

On Thursday, the Dow DJIA, -0.01%  ended marginally lower, falling 1.63 points to 27,781.96, a day after eking out a record close. The S&P 500 SPX, +0.08%, meanwhile, tiptoed further into uncharted territory with a rise of 2.59 points, or 0.1%, to end at 3,096.63 — it’s 21st record close of 2019. The Nasdaq Composite COMP, -0.04%  edged 3.08 points lower, a decline of less than 0.1%, to finish at 8,479.02.

Despite being down three of the four past trading days, the tech-weighted Nasdaq remains less than 0.1% below its record closing high set on Tuesday.

Read: ‘Hindenburg Omen’ and ‘Ohama Titanic Syndrome’ form in a key stock-market index

“Investors continue to hang onto every word associated with the U.S.-China trade war,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell. “White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow reportedly said that current negotiations between the two countries are ‘very constructive’, which was enough to drive stock markets up across the U.K., mainland Europe and most of Asia.”

Kudlow on Thursday said negotiators are getting close to an agreement, but that President Donald Trump wasn’t yet ready to sign off. Trump “likes what he sees, he’s not ready to make a commitment, he hasn’t signed off on a commitment for phase one, we heave no agreement just yet for phase one,” he said at a Council on Foreign Relations event, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Optimism over a so-called phase one agreement between the U.S. and China has waxed and waned over the past week. Expectations for a quick signing of the partial agreement have cooled following news reports that have pointed to snags between U.S. and Chinese negotiators. These reportedly include a reluctance by China to commit to a numerical threshold for purchases of U.S. farm products and a debate over whether existing U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports should be rolled back as part of the agreement.

Shares of Applied Materials Inc. AMAT, -0.28%  were expected to be in focus after the chip-equipment company late Thursday reported a fall in profit from a year ago, but topped Wall Street expectations. The company’s outlook also backed up earlier reports from the chip-equipment sector pointing to a recovery for the beaten-down semiconductor industry. Shares were 6.4% higher in premarket action.

Chip maker Nvidia Corp. NVDA, +0.58%  late Thursday forecast a return to revenue growth after four quarters of declines and beat estimates for its quarterly results. Shares rose 0.2% ahead of the opening bell.

Shares of furniture maker RH RH, +1.29%  were up more than 7% in premarket action after Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. BRK.B, -0.19% BRK.A, -0.03%  revealed in a regulatory filing that it had bought 1.2 million shares of the company formerly known as Restoration Hardware.

Berkshire also revealed that it owned nearly 7.5 million shares of Occidental Petroleum Corp. OXY, -0.94%  worth around $332 million as of the end of the third quarter. Berkshire in April committed $10 billion to help Occidental in its bid for Anadarko Petroleum Corp, giving the company an edge over Chevron Corp. CVX, +0.00%, which later bowed out of the fight for Anadarko.

October retail sales figures will likely be the highlight of the economic calendar at 8:30 a.m. Eastern. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expect sales to rise 0.2%, bouncing back from a 0.3% fall in September. Excluding autos, sales are expected to show a 0.4% rise after a 0.1% decline.

The New York Federal Reserve’s November Empire State index, a gauge of regional activity, is also set for release at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time, while the October industrial production and capacity utilization data are set for 9:15 a.m.. Figures on September business inventories are due at 10 a.m.

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