3 Hot Things in the Markets Right Now

  • Small-cap stocks are finally out-performing large-caps, reports TheStreet's Executive Editor Brian Sozzi. 
  • Traders initially cheered results from struggling Sears Holdings Corp. (SHLD) Wednesday evening. But, TheStreet says they shouldn't.
  • Toys 'R' Us said in a filing Thursday that it will move to shutter all 880 of its U.S. stores after failing to find a buyer. 

Market Snapshot

Global stocks traded higher Thursday, helping pull U.S. equity futures into positive territory, even as investors reacted to the appointment of a staunch free-trade advocate to a key role in the White House as investors continue to fret over the potential for a global trade war.

Early indications from U.S. futures suggest a modestly positive open on Wall Street, with contracted tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average marked 23 points higher from their Wednesday close, indicating an opening bell gain of around 20 points. Contracts linked to the broader S&P 500 were marked 0.5 points to the downside while the tech-focused Nasdaq was indicated 6.5 points lower.

President Donald Trump's decision to appoint television commentator Larry Kudlow as his top economic adviser was partly linked to market's optimistic tone, give the former Reagan-era economist's views on free trade and corporate deregulation, and appears to help soften concerns that Trump's targeting of China for further $60 billion in tariffs in an effort to reduce the $375 billion trade deficit the U.S. has with the world's second-largest economy could accelerate a brewing trade war.

Larry Kudlow will be my Chief Economic Advisor as Director of the National Economic Council. Our Country will have many years of Great Economic & Financial Success, with low taxes, unparalleled innovation, fair trade and an ever expanding labor force leading the way! #MAGA

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 15, 2018

"If the U.S. wants to reduce its trade deficit, it has to make Americans more hard-working and conduct reforms in accordance with international market demand, instead of asking the rest of the world to change," an editorial in China's state-run Global Times read Thursday in response to the White House's statements on trade.

European stocks were also on the move, with the Stoxx Europe 600 benchmark rising 0.01% despite concerns over rising tensions between Russia and the United Kingdom after Prime Minister Theresa May vowed to freeze Russian assets and expel 23 diplomats in response to allegations that officials in Moscow were behind the attempted murder for a former spy in the southwest city of Salisbury last Sunday.

That said, a cautious tone was evident in both European and overnight Asia trading, with benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury bond yields falling to 2.806% and the dollar index, which tracks the greenback's strength against a basket of six global currencies, falling to 89.75. Stocks were mixed in the region, with Japan's Nikkei 225 edging 0.12% higher by the close of trading in Tokyo while the region-side MSCI Asia ex-Japan benchmark remained little changed from Wednesday's levels throughout the session.

Global oil prices traded modestly higher from their Wednesday settlements in early European trading after the International Energy Agency bumped its forecast for global demand to around 99.3 million barrels per day but noted that oversupply is still keeping global crude stockpiles elevated. Yesterday, the U.S.-based Energy Information Administration said crude inventories rose by 5 million barrels in the week ending March 9 as U.S. output hit a record 10.38 million barrels per day.

Brent crude contracts for May delivery, the global benchmark, were seen 15 cents higher at $65.03 per barrel while WTI contracts for April rose  24 cents to $61.20 cents per barrel.

Bitcoin prices were also on the back foot, falling to a six-week low, after Google said it would ban ads for initial coin offerings and digital currency trading platforms as regulatory oversight in the global cryptocurrency market tightens.

Bitcoins were marked at $8,175 each on the bitstamp exchange in Luxembourg, which feeds prices into the CME Group futures contract, after hitting a six-week low of $7,682.00 earlier in the session.