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The Friday Market Minute

  • Global stocks nudge higher despite mixed messages on U.S.-China trade talks.
  • China President Xi says working towards a phase one deal, but "not afraid" of a trade conflict with the world's biggest economy.
  • European shares edge higher, with basic resource and oil and gas stocks leading, as investors digest the maiden speech of new ECB President Christine Lagarde and November PMI data.
  • Wall Street futures suggest modest gains at the opening bell, potentially snapping a three-day losing streak, with earnings from Foot Locker and JM Smucker before the start of trading.

Market Snapshot

U.S. equity futures edged higher Friday, setting up the chance to snap a three-day losing streak on Wall Street, as investors continue to fixate on the fate of trade talks between Washington and Beijing and the strength of the American consumer heading into the holiday season.

The S&P 500 has given back just under half a percent of its year-to-date gains this week amid the conflicting signals from U.S.-China trade talks, but volatility has remained historically low and all three domestic benchmarks are within touching distance of all-time highs despite the ongoing concern for the timing of a near-term agreement between the world's two largest economies.

China President Xi Jinping added to the collection of mixed signals Friday, telling an international forum in Beijing that while his country "wants to work for a 'phase one' agreement on the basis of mutual respect and equality" but added that "when necessary we will fight back."

"As we always said, we don't want to start the trade war, but we are not afraid," Xi cautioned. 

With tariffs on $160 billion in China-made consumer goods -- including the Apple iPhone -- set to kick-in on December 15, investors are hoping an agreement can be reached that will prevent any spending disruption from American shoppers over the key holiday season, which unofficially begins with next week's Black Friday sales event.

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Wall Street futures suggest modest gains on Wall Street Friday ahead of November PMI data at 9:45 am Eastern time and the benchmark University of Michigan consumer sentiment reading fifteen minutes later. Contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average are indicating a modest 50 point gain while those linked to the S&P 500 are guiding for a 7 point bump for the broader benchmark.

Nordstrom Inc. (JWN) shares were a notable early-market mover, rising sharply higher after the retailer posted stronger-than-expected third quarter earnings, and improved its full-year profit outlook, as its focus on digital shopping offset a slump in full price product sales.

European stocks were also modestly higher by mid-morning trading in London and Frankfurt, with the Stoxx 600 benchmark rising 0.44% on the back of solid gains for basic resource stocks and Britain's FTSE 100 posting a 1.1% advance as the pound retreated to 1.2872 against the U.S. dollar after weaker-than-expected PMI data for the month of November.

The euro was marked marginally lower against the dollar, as well, at 1.1055 after the maiden speech for new European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde, who suggested little change to the central bank's dovish policy tact, instead focusing on the region's fiscal policy before an audience of bankers in Frankfurt.

Overnight in Asia, stocks nudged up from a three-week low heading into the end of a tough week for regional equities, with Japan's Nikkei 225 rising 0.32% to close at 23,112.88 points and the MSCI ex-Japan index marked 0.13% to the upside despite a pullback in China stocks and weakness in India.

Global oil prices were also on the back foot, retreating from yesterday's two-month highs but still trading at elevated levels following a Reuters report that suggested OPEC cartel members are looking to extend their agreed production cuts, which are taking 1.2 million barrels from the market each day, into the first quarter of next year when they meet in Vienna on December 5.

Brent crude contracts for January delivery, the global benchmark, were seen 2 cents lower from their Thursday close and trading at $63.95 per barrel, while WTI contracts for the same month were marked 18 cents lower at $58.40 per barrel.