European stocks booked solid early gains Thursday, while U.S. futures edged firmer into the green amid perhaps the most important set of corporate earnings so far this year and a new set of questions from investors on the pace of inflation in the world's biggest economy and its ultimate impact on interest rates and the broader bull market.
The Stoxx 600 index, the regional benchmark, added 0.42% by mid-day in Frankfurt Thursday following solid quarterly and full year results from a host of European blue chips, including Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDS.A) , Unilever Plc Roche Holding Ltd. (RHHBY) , Nokia Oyj (NOK) and Next Group Plc. (NXGPY) . The gains were impressive, as well, given the elevated euro, which remains near its three-year high against the U.S. dollar and was changing hands at 1.2431 in early European dealing.
Early indications from U.S. equity futures point to another upside session on Wall Street, even as the Dow gives back some of Wednesday's gains, as investors await key fourth quarter earnings from the country's biggest tech stocks, including Google parent Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL) , online retailer Amazon Inc. (AMZN) and, after the close of trading today, Apple Inc. (AAPL) . Ford Motor Co. (F) , Visa Inc. (V) and Mastercard Inc. (MA) will also update during the session.
Futures contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average were marked 50 points lower than their Wednesday close as the impact of Boeing's BA 4.9% advance faes while those tied to the broader S&P 500 were seen 2.25 points, or 0.1%, to the upside as investors remain bullish on a corporate earnings season which is expected to deliver bottom-line growth of 13.2% when compared to the final three months of 2016.
Nasdaq futures were marked 5.75 points to the good, thanks in part to a 2.22% pre-market gain for shares in Facebook Inc. (FB) after the social media icon posted a 47% increase in quarterly revenues and assured investors that its aim to reduce the amount of time users spend on the platform won't hit its digital advertizing profitability.
Apple will publish its much-anticipated first quarter earnings after the bell, with investors from around the world waiting to hear how its flagship iPhone X sales fared over the Christmas quarter. The Street consensus for overall group revenue is $87.1 billion and earnings per share of $3.84, a 14% increase from the same three-month period a year ago.
Overnight in Asia, the U.S. dollar index was active following last night's interest rate decision and hawkish inflation outlook from the U.S. Federal Reserve. The central bank made no changes to its policy suite during the final meeting under outgoing chairwoman Janet Yellen, but did note that it expects faster inflation this year and guided markets to at least three interest rate increases over the course of 2018.
The CME Group's FedWatch monitor now suggests an 83% chance of a rate hike on March 21, the first policy meeting under new chairman Jay Powell, up from 77.1% prior to yesterday's statement in Washington.
The dollar index, which benchmarks the greenback against a basket of six global currencies, jumped as much as 0.51% higher from Wednesday levels to 89.33 in early Asia trading as 10-year U.S. Treasury yields spiked to 2.752%, the highest since the summer of 2014, before both pared gains to around 89.04 and 2.748% respectively as European dealing got underway.
Asia stocks, however, were mixed, with the dollar's moves keeping prices muted for much of the session pushing the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index into a modest 0.3% decline as the session came to a close. Japan's Nikkei 225, however, took advantage of the dollar weakness and added 1.68% to snap a six-day losing streak and close at 23,486.11 points.
Global oil markets also broadly tracked the U.S. dollar, with prices rising into the European session as the greenback softened and Goldman Sachs issued a research note that lifted its forecast for Brent prices over the next three months to $75 a barrel.
Brent crude contracts for April, the global benchmark, were seen 0.8% higher from their Wednesday close at $69.44 per barrel while WTI contracts for the month of March were 0.7% higher at $65.17 in the early European session.