Day Ahead: Top 3 Things To Watch

1. Traders Eye Data on Labor Market, Manufacturing, Consumer Confidence

A deluge of data awaits market participants on Thursday as regional U.S. manufacturing reports, consumer confidence and an update on the labor market is expected to be closely monitored.

Economists forecast the Philly Fed manufacturing index for March to show a reading of 23.2, slightly below the 25.8 reading in the previous month. While the New York Fed’s Empire State manufacturing index – a gauge of New York-area manufacturing – is expected to show a rise in March compared to the previous month.

The Labor department releases its weekly count of the number of individuals who filed for unemployment insurance for the week ended March 9, expected to show a drop to 230,000 from 231,000 the prior week. Continuing jobless claims are expected to have increased to 1.9 million for the week ended March 9 from 1.870 million.

The Bloomberg Consumer Confidence Index – which measures views on the condition of the U.S. economy, personal finances and the buying climate – will also be closely monitored after an uptick to a reading of 56.8 last week.

The dollar traded flat against a basket of major currencies Wednesday after retail sales fell for the third-straight month for the first time since April 2012.

2. Natural Gas, IEA Monthly Report In Focus

The International Energy Agency (IEA) releases its monthly report at 05:00 a.m. ET, outlining key developments impacting oil market trends.

Market participants are likely to monitor the IEA’s forecast on U.S. production closely after the energy watchdog in February said “extraordinary” growth in U.S. shale oil could soon force OPEC to take action.

Crude oil prices settled 25 cents higher at $60.96 a barrel on Wednesday after a massive draw in gasoline supplies offset a rise in crude stockpiles.

The Energy Information Agency’s releases weekly natural gas storage data expected to show natural gas fell by 96 billion cubic feet last week. Natural gas prices fell by 1.69% to $2.74 on Wednesday.

3. Kudlow Replaces Cohn as White House Economic Adviser

President Donald Trump on Wednesday confirmed that television commentator and economic analyst Larry Kudlow will replace Gary Cohn as the top White House economic adviser.

Mr Kudlow – a free trade advocate – insisted on Wednesday that China has been guilty of skirting the rules on international trade, earning the right for a “tough response” in trade.

“China has earned a tough response not only from the United States,” Kudlow told CNBC.

Kudlow’s tough stance on China, however, is unlikely to ease investor fears over the prospect of a trade war.

U.S. stocks tumbled after the White House said it would increase its efforts to trim the US trade deficit with China by $100 billion. Traders feared that any attempt to impose trade restrictions will lead to a tit-for-tat trade war between the world’s two largest economics.

The Dow jones plunged nearly 250 points to close at 2,4758.12 on Wednesday, weighed by 2.5% slump in shares of Boeing (NYSE:BA), as the aircraft manufacturer would likely come under pressure should China decide to retaliate against U.S. tariffs.

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