US Stock Futures Look Set For A Weak Opening After Wednesday’s Fall Triggered By Janet Yellen’s Unexpected Candor On Monetary Policy; Home Sales, Jobless Claims Data To Be Watched

Janet Yellen
Janet Yellen swears in to testify at her U.S. Senate Banking Committee confirmation hearing in Washington, Nov. 14, 2013.

Thursday morning could see a continuation of the negative reactions to Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen’s unexpected candor on Wednesday about the potential timeline of a hike in interest rates.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down 0.17 percent, while futures on the S&P 500 were down 0.2 percent and those on the Nasdaq were down 0.21 percent. On Wednesday, the Dow fell 0.7 percent while the S&P dropped 0.61 percent and the Nasdaq slipped 0.59 percent.

Yellen, who was chairing her first meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, or FOMC, came in for some criticism about her comments that the Fed’s low-interest-rate policy, which has kept rates at near-zero levels since December 2008, could change in “six months or that type of thing.”

According to a Bloomberg report, Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan Chase, wrote in a client note: “The more-experienced [Ben] Bernanke knew to avoid clarifying deliberately vague statement language,” while Michael Wallace of Colorado-based Action Economics called Yellen’s attempt to be frank a “gaffe.”

In earnings, Lennar Corporation (NYSE:LEN) and ConAgra Foods Inc. (NYSE:CAG) are scheduled to declare quarterly earnings before markets open while Nike Inc. (NYSE:NKE) will announce earnings after market hours. On the data front, jobless claims for the week ended March 15 are due at 8:30 a.m. EDT while existing homes sales numbers for February are scheduled for 10 a.m.

In Europe, markets were down mostly on Yellen’s comments with the Stoxx Europe 600 index trading down 0.59 percent, while the FTSE 100 was down 0.88 percent. Germany’s DAX-30 was down 0.69 percent while France's CAC-40 fell 0.72 percent.

In Asia too, markets were down on the Yellen effect, with Japan’s Nikkei-225 falling 1.65 percent while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dropped 1.15 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 1.79 percent while the Shanghai Composite fell 1.4 percent. South Korea’s Kospi was down 0.94 percent while India’s BSE Sensex was trading down 0.44 percent.

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