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Nasdaq Futures Lead Wall Street Monday Amid Busy Earnings Week

Around 120 S&P 500 companies will report quarterly earnings this week, with investors also focused on the first Federal Reserve policy decision of the year Wednesday and the first reading of Q4 GDP Thursday.

The Monday Market Minute

  • Global stocks mixed as tech gains provide support amid concerns over a new COVID variant and uneven vaccine rollouts in major economies around the world.
  • Global COVID infections hit 100 million, while passing the 25 million mark in the United States, as President Biden limits travel from the UK, Europe, South Africa an Brazil.
  • S&P 500 earnings highlight a busy week on Wall Street, with 120 companies reporting including Apple, Tesla, Facebook and Microsoft. 
  • President Biden renews push for $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief effort amid pushback from GOP Senators wishing to prioritize vaccine distribution over fiscal expansion.

Wall Street futures pointed to a mixed open Monday, with tech stocks set to lead gainers heading into the busiest week of the fourth quarter earnings season, amid uneven progress on COVID vaccine rollouts and the spread of new and deadlier strains of the virus in major countries around the world. 

With global infections nearing the 100 million mark, and passing 25 million in the United States, investors are looking for concrete signs of progress in both vaccine strategies and deeper fiscal stimulus, each of which are falling short of forecasts heading into the final week of the month.

Republican lawmakers in the Senate are pushing back on President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion stimulus target, and confusion over the amount, timing and distribution of coronavirus vaccines has the government well below it intended target for inoculations. 

In the meantime, new and deadlier strains of the virus, first identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa, are accelerating infections around the world and compelling President Biden to sign Executive Orders banning travel from both countries -- as well as Brazil and the broader European Union -- in order to slow its spread.

Wall Street will also need to focus on both the first Federal Reserve policy meeting of the year, which begins Tuesday, and the first reading of fourth quarter GDP, which is expected at 8:3 0am on Thursday.

Bookending those two events will be the release of around 120 S&P 500 earnings reports, including those from tech giants Apple  (AAPL) - Get Apple Inc. Report, Facebook  (FB) - Get Meta Platforms Inc. Report and Microsoft  (MSFT) - Get Microsoft Corporation Report, as well as blue-chip names such as Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Tesla Inc. Report, Boeing  (BA) - Get The Boeing Company Report, Visa  (V) - Get Visa Inc. Report and Johnson & Johnson  (JNJ) - Get Johnson & Johnson Report.

Collective S&P 500 earnings are expected to decline 5.7% from last year to a share-weighted $324.8 billion, according to data from Refinitiv, before rebounding 18.1% over the first three months of the year.

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With a host of events to navigate in the coming days, Wall Street futures are looking at a mixed open to start the week, with contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average suggesting a 140 point opening bell decline and those linked to the S&P 500, which is up 2.3% for the month, priced for a 0.2 point advance. 

Nasdaq Composite futures, however, look stronger, with futures indicating a 125 point opening bell gain that would extend the tech-focused benchmark's 2.4% gain for the month.

Tech stocks were the rare outperformer in an otherwise bearish European trading session clouded by a surprise fall in German business morale, as measured by the key Ifo index survey, and the worryingly slow progress on vaccine rollouts in the world's biggest economic bloc.

The Stoxx 600 was marked 0.6% lower in the opening hours of trading, while Britain's FTSE 100 fell 0.85%. 

Overnight in Asia, tech gave the region-wide MSCI ex-Japan benchmark a boosted, sending in 1.17% higher on the session, while a softer yen helped the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo close 0.67% higher at 28,822.29 points.

Away from equities, cautious European trading lifted the U.S dollar index 0.1% higher against a basket of its global peers to trade at 90.316, while benchmark 10-year Treasury note yields slipped to 1.065%.

The stronger U.S. dollar, as well as last week's Energy Department report showing a big jump in domestic crude stocks of 4.4 million barrels, kept oil prices in the red for much of the European session, with U.S. crude trading 40 cents lower at $52.67 per barrel.

Bitcoin prices, meanwhile, jumped around $1,400 to trade just over the $33,000 mark, but are still some 20% lower than the all-time high of just over $42,000 reached earlier this month.