Market Snapshot: U.S. stock futures under pressure as Russia-Ukraine tensions simmer

U.S. stock index futures slipped again early Thursday, as investors dealt with the ongoing uncertainty about Russia’s intentions as it moves troops near the border with Ukraine.

An earnings report from Walmart, the world’s largest company by revenue and its largest private employer, is ahead Thursday, along with weekly U.S. jobless benefit claims and January housing data.

How are stock-index futures trading?

On Wednesday, a mixed session saw the S&P 500gain 0.1% to finish at 4,475.01, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average 

slipped 0.2% to 34,934.27. The Nasdaq Composite Index 

fell 0.1% to 14,124.09.

What’s driving the market?

Investors were being whipsawed by Ukraine-Russia headlines, with the latest development seeing NATO accuse Moscow of misleading the world over troop withdrawals, saying that country had instead moved in about 7,000 soldiers.

That backed up an assessment from a U.S. official on Wednesday, though Russia claims it is pulling back. As well Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine have accused government forces of opening fire on them.

“The market reacted this week as if something significant in the direction of de-escalation has happened, but that doesn’t seem to be the case, and yet the market has only partially priced back in a higher level of concern,” said the Saxo Bank strategy team, in a note to clients.

“This geopolitical issue can remain the source of significant market volatility on fresh developments/headlines, especially ahead of the weekend if tensions are escalating again today or tomorrow,” said the Saxo team.

The uncertainty sent gold prices higher by 0.9% to $1,887.70 an ounce, with the U.S. dollar

modestly higher. Oil prices

were under pressure, down 2% to $91.50 a barrel, after tumbling in late trade on Wednesday amid reports that the U.S. and Iran were close to reaching an agreement over nuclear talks.

Investors will get another batch of U.S. economic data Thursday, including weekly jobless claims, January building permits and housing starts, and a Philadelphia Fed manufacturing index for February. St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard and Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester are both due to give speeches later Thursday.

The minutes of the Fed’s January meeting released on Wednesday, reiterated support for picking up the pace on interest rate hikes and a significant reduction of the central bank’s near $9 trillion balance sheet.

Shares of Walmart

will be in focus with earnings ahead from the retail giant.

This post was originally published on Market Watch

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