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U.S. stock futures are flat with the S&P 500 at a record high

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Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Source: NYSE

U.S. stock futures were steady in overnight trading on Sunday as investors digested the S&P 500’s record level heading into a week with a key Federal Reserve meeting.

Dow futures rose 23 points. S&P 500 futures rose 0.09% and Nasdaq 100 futures added 0.14%.

The Fed’s two-day policy meeting will likely dominate investor behavior this week. Although the central bank is not expected to take any action, its forecasts for interest rates, inflation and the economy could move the markets.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell speaks to the press after the central bank issues its statement at 2 p.m. ET on Wednesday. He is expected to affirm the Fed’s commitment to easy policy. However, concerns over inflation and how the Fed could react is likely to influence market direction, especially after a hotter-than-expected consumer inflation reading for May was reported last Thursday.

“Considering the recent outsized inflation reports, the Federal Reserve’s meeting this week will be scrutinized for any telltale sign the Fed’s timetable for either raising the Funds Rate or tapering QE is being moved forward,” Jim Paulsen, chief investment strategist at the Leuthold Group, told CNBC.

“Any evidence suggesting monetary tightening is being moved forward will likely bring volatility to the stock market,” added Paulsen.

U.S. stocks ended last week with a record closing high for the S&P 500 and the beginning of a rotation back into growth names.

Last week, the 30-stock Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.8%, but the S&P 500 rose 0.4%, for its third straight positive week. The Nasdaq Composite was the outperformer with a gain of nearly 1.9%, posting its fourth winning week in a row as the tech trade came back into favor.

“Because the S&P 500 Index reached yet another new record high last week, investors will be watching to see if this signals even higher levels near term,” said Paulsen.

Investors are giving growth stocks another chance as bond yields come down. The 10-year Treasury went below 1.43% on Friday, a three-month low. Cathie Wood’s Ark Innovation, an ETF that focuses on disruptive technology, returned about 6% last week.

Boosting cryptocurrency sentiment, Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Sunday said the company will resume bitcoin transactions once it confirms there is reasonable clean energy usage by miners. Bitcoin last traded up 8.6% around $39,000, according to Coin Metrics.

Meme stocks also garnered attention last week. AMC Entertainment, Clover Health Investments, GameStop and more experienced volatile trading as the group continued to get attention from the social media investors on Reddit.

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— with reporting from CNBC’s Patti Domm.

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U.S. jobs, Australia’s trade data, currencies and oil

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SINGAPORE — Shares in Asia-Pacific looked poised for a lower start on Thursday, following declines overnight on Wall Street that saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping more than 300 points.

Futures pointed to a lower open for Japanese stocks. The Nikkei futures contract in Chicago was at 27,530 while its counterpart in Osaka was at 27,490. That compared against the Nikkei 225’s last close at 27,584.08.

Shares in Australia also looked set for an opening slip, with the SPI futures contract at 7,398.0, versus the S&P/ASX 200’s last close at 7,503.20.

Australia’s trade data for June is set to be out at 9:30 a.m. HK/SIN on Thursday.

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Overnight stateside, the Dow dropped 323.73 points to 34,792.67 while the S&P 500 slipped 0.46% to 4,402.66. The Nasdaq Composite outperformed as it rose 0.13% to 14,780.53.

The moves on Wall Street came after jobs data from payroll processing firm ADP came in well below expectations. The ADP private payroll survey showed a gain of 330,000 jobs for July, well below the consensus estimate of 653,000. The more closely watched Labor Department nonfarm payrolls release is set to be out on Friday.

Currencies

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 92.27 following a recent bounce from below 92.

The Japanese yen traded at 109.49 per dollar following a weakening yesterday from levels below 109 against the greenback. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7381, still higher than levels below $0.735 seen earlier in the trading week.

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GM confirms new electric truck and van for commercial customers

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General Motors plans to launch a new all-electric van called the EV600 by the end of this year. The first 500 vehicles will be sold to FedEx.

GM

General Motors on Wednesday confirmed that it will add two new electric vehicles to its commercial lineup in the coming years, outside of its recently launched BrightDrop business.

GM CEO Mary Barra said the automaker plans to add a full-size battery electric cargo van for Chevrolet as well as a medium-duty truck for service and utility vehicles such as school buses and bucket trucks.

“Both will complement BrightDrop and keep our commercial fleet market share growing,” Barra told investors Wednesday during an earnings call. “We’ll share more details about these products as we move forward.”

Barra did not disclose timing or other details about the vehicles. The company is investing in the products as part of a previously announced plan to increase spending on electric and autonomous vehicle by 30% to $35 billion through 2025. But the vehicles aren’t expected to launch until after that timeframe, according to a person familiar with the plans.

The medium-duty truck will be offered as a battery-electric vehicle with GM’s Ultium Cells as well as its Hydrotec fuel cells, Barra said. The van will “exceed the expectations” of its customers who have purchased small GM vans in recent years, she said.

The commercial market is expected to be a major growth area for EVs. Other start-up automakers like Amazon-backed Rivian as well as legacy automakers such as Ford Motor and Daimler have announced plans to enter the segment.

GM announced BrightDrop in January as a new wholistic EV commercial and logistics business, separate from its current commercial business that focuses on small vans and pickups.

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What to know about the Ethereum London hard fork EIP-1559 upgrade

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Ethereum, the blockchain that runs ether, the second-largest cryptocurrency under bitcoin, will undergo a major upgrade this week.

Slated for Thursday, the upgrade, called London, includes Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP) 1559, which aims to change the way transaction fees, or “gas fees,” are estimated.

Currently, users must bid for how much they’re willing to pay to have their ether transaction picked up by a miner, which can be extremely costly. Under EIP-1559, this process will be handled by an automated bidding system with a set fee amount that fluctuates based on how congested the network is.

“This is great for Ethereum casual users and makes the protocol less intimidating to use,” Eric Conner, a co-author of EIP-1559 and co-founder of EthHub, tells CNBC Make It.

Another major change under EIP-1559 is that part of every transaction fee will be burned, or removed from circulation, which will begin to reduce the supply of ether and potentially boost its price.

That’s why, in part, “EIP-1559 is one of the most significant upgrades to Ethereum since the network’s launch,” says Meltem Demirors, CoinShares chief strategy officer.

Here’s what investors should know as the upgrade rolls out.

What EIP-1559 means for investors

While EIP-1559 aims to strengthen the ecosystem of Ethereum ⁠— which is known for its smart contract capabilities that power DeFi, or decentralized finance, apps and NFTs, or nonfungible tokens, among other things ⁠— it isn’t likely that there will be much short-term impact on investors, Demirors says.

Long-term, however, the proposal’s co-authors hope to make ether deflationary by reducing the supply. This would be “extremely beneficial” for investors, Conner says, especially “with all the recent talk of inflation in the United States.” It would give crypto investors an option to hold a deflationary asset.

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But the EIP-1559 proposal alone will not make ether deflationary, Demirors says.

“Many of these expectations are likely too optimistic in the short-term, and will become more material in the long-term,” she says. That’s because “the nominal amount of gas burned won’t outpace network inflation.”

EIP-1559 also wouldn’t lower gas fee prices or the cost of transactions on the network, which can be very high.

Still, the upgrade is important since it has the potential to improve Ethereum’s user experience and may boost the price of ether.

Other innovations surrounding Ethereum are in the works as well, Demirors says. That includes the planned migration from a proof of work (PoW) model to a proof of stake (PoS) model later this year or early 2022.

Under the PoS model, a person can mine or validate transactions according to how many coins they hold. In a PoW model, miners must compete to solve complex puzzles in order to validate transactions. Supporters of the PoS model say it will use less energy and better the blockchain’s efficiency.

“Taken together, EIP-1559 and the move to PoS will have a major impact on miners and the economics of Ethereum,” Demirors says, “but at the moment, the upgrade alone does not.”

Overall, “I think the most important thing that EIP-1559 shows to investors is that Ethereum is still an actively developed project which refuses to stagnate and become obsolete,” Conner says.

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