The U.S. stock index futures point to a flat open Friday ahead of the automatic spending cuts or sequester in the U.S. that is set to come into effect midnight March 1.
The futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average were down 0.02 percent, the futures on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index were down 0.09 percent and those on the Nasdaq 100 Index were up 0.07 percent.
President Barak Obama is scheduled to meet Congressional leaders Friday to discuss the impending sequester that will cut $85 billion in spending from the defense and domestic budget in the remainder of the 2013 fiscal year but it is not expected that a solution will be reached.
Investors are also expected to focus on the publication of the Institute of Supply Management’s (ISM) manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) and the Commerce Department's personal income and spending data.
The Institute of Supply Management’s manufacturing data for February will be released at 10 a.m. EDT. The manufacturing PMI, which rates the relative level of business conditions, including employment, production, new orders, prices, supplier deliveries and inventories, is expected to decline to 52.5 in February, down from 53.1 in January. But a level above 50 represents expansion in the industry.
Investors also await the release of the monthly core Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) price index before the markets open. The Commerce Department will release the January personal income and consumption data at 8:30 a.m. EDT.
Economists expect a sharp 2.5 percent decline in income and 0.2 percent increase in spending in January after they gained 2.6 percent and 0.2 per cent in the prior month. The core PCE deflator is expected to increase 0.2 percent.
In addition, the University of Michigan’s index of consumer sentiment will be released after the opening bell. The index is expected to show that confidence levels remain unchanged at 76.3 in the final February reading.
On Thursday, the U.S. stock markets erased gains and slipped into the negative territory in the final minutes of trading. The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 0.15 percent, the S&P 500 Index was down 0.09 percent and the Nasdaq Composite Index declined 0.07 percent.
The U.S. economic data Thursday was mixed with fourth quarter GDP revised to 0.1 percent from initial estimation of 0.4 percent contraction but the increase was less than economists’ estimate of 0.5 percent growth. Meanwhile, other reports showed a drop in the new U.S. claims for jobless benefits last week and a sharp rise in Chicago-area manufacturing activity in February.
European stock markets were trading slightly higher with Germany's DAX30 up 0.17 percent, France's CAC 40 gaining 0.03 percent and London's FTSE 100 advancing 0.18 percent.
Asian stock markets were mixed Friday as disappointing Chinese manufacturing growth weighed on sentiment. The Japanese Nikkei gained 0.41 percent and India’s BSE Sensex advanced 0.50 percent, while the Chinese Shanghai Composite declined 0.26 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.61 percent.
Data released by the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing Friday showed that the Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) declined to 50.1 in February from 50.4 in January and also fell short of the economists' estimate of 50. Meanwhile, the final reading of the HSBC Flash Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) also declined to 50.4 in February from January's two-year high of 52.3.
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