Futures edge higher as investors look to Powell's speech

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures inched higher on Friday ahead of Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s speech that could offer clues on when the central bank will start winding down its stimulus.

FILE PHOTO: People are seen on Wall Street outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., March 19, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

Oil majors Exxon Mobil, Chevron Corp and Schlumberger NV rose between 0.6% and 1.4%, tracking crude prices, while big banks, including JPMorgan Chase & Co, were up about 0.4%.

Wall Street’s main indexes slipped from all-time closing highs on Thursday on concerns over developments in Afghanistan and hawkish signals from Fed officials.

In an exclusive interview to Reuters, Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic, who is a voting member of the policy setting committee, said it would be “reasonable” to trim bond purchases beginning in October if strong job gains continue.

Powell, who is due to speak via webcast at 10 a.m. ET (1400 GMT) at the annual Jackson Hole economic conference, may acknowledge the economy’s progress toward full employment, and likely provide new hints about slowing the $120 billion in monthly asset purchases, with an announcement expected before the end of 2021, possibly as early as next month.

A strong corporate earnings recovery and hopes of a vaccine-driven economic rebound have pushed U.S. stocks to record levels in recent sessions, but soaring cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19 have clouded economic outlook.

The three major indexes were set for slight weekly gains, with tech-heavy Nasdaq looking to outperform.

At 6:49 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 86 points, or 0.24%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 13.75 points, or 0.31%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 55.75 points, or 0.36%.

Mega-cap technology stocks Apple Inc, Facebook Inc, Amazon.com, Google-owner Alphabet Inc, and Tesla Inc edged higher before the opening bell.

On the data front, University of Michigan’s consumer sentiment index for August and the Fed’s favored inflation gauge, personal consumption expenditure, for July are due at 08:30 am ET.

Among earnings-driven moves, apparel retailer Gap Inc jumped 7.8% after it raised its full-year net sales forecast as socializing makes a comeback with easing pandemic curbs.

Workday Inc added 6.1% as brokerages raised their price targets on the stock after the enterprise cloud applications company beat analyst estimates for second-quarter revenue.

Fitness equipment maker Peloton Interactive Inc tumbled 9.2% after a warning that its near-term profitability would suffer due to a decision to slash the price of its exercise bike and higher costs.

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