Futures Pointing To Mixed Open On Wall Street

The major U.S. index futures are pointing to a mixed opening on Thursday, suggesting stocks are likely to continue to experience choppy trading following the volatility seen in the previous session.

The futures gave back ground after Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told CNBC the U.S. is "miles and miles" from a trade deal with China.

"Frankly, that shouldn't be too surprising," Ross said in an interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box," noting the U.S. and China have "lots and lots of issues."

The comments from Ross come ahead of Chinese Vice Premier Liu He's trip to Washington next week for the next round of trade negotiations.

Renewed concerns about a U.S.-China trade deal have offset positive sentiment generated by a report from the Labor Department showing initial jobless claims fell to their lowest level in almost fifty years in the week ended January 19th.

Stocks fluctuated over the course of the trading session on Wednesday after failing to sustain an early move to the upside. The major averages showed wild swings as the day progressed before ending the session in positive territory.

While the major averages all closed higher, the Dow outperformed its counterparts by a wide margin. The Dow climbed 171.14 points or 0.7 percent to 24,575.62, while the Nasdaq crept up 5.41 points or 0.1 percent to 7,025.77 and the S&P 500 inched up 5.80 points or 0.2 percent to 2,638.70.

The notable advance by the Dow reflected a positive reaction to quarterly results from several of the components of the blue chip index.

Tech giant IBM Corp. (IBM) posted a standout gain after reporting fourth quarter results that beat estimates and providing upbeat guidance for 2019.

Shares of United Technologies (UTX) also moved notably higher after the industrial conglomerate reported fourth quarter results that exceeded analyst estimates on both the top and bottom lines.

Consumer products giant Procter & Gamble (PG) also saw significant strength after reporting better than expected fiscal second quarter results.

Meanwhile, the volatility by the broader markets came as traders expressed uncertainty about the economic impact of the ongoing U.S. government shutdown.

In an interview with CNN, a top economic adviser to President Donald Trump acknowledged the shutdown could lead to a lack of economic growth in the first quarter.

White House Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Kevin Hassett conceded the U.S. could see zero growth if the shutdown continues for the whole quarter.

"It is true that if we get a typically weak first quarter and extended shutdown that we could end up with a number that is very low," or "very close to zero," Hassett said.

However, Hassett predicted second quarter growth would subsequently be "humongous" assuming the government reopened.

Most of the major sectors ended the day showing only modest moves, although considerable weakness was visible among oil service stocks.

The Philadelphia Oil Service Index slumped by 2.1 percent, continuing to give back ground after reaching its best closing level in over a month last Friday. The weakness among oil service stocks came amid a decrease by the price of crude oil.

Natural gas and transportation stocks also saw some weakness on the day, while notable strength emerged among utilities stocks.

Commodity, Currency Markets

Crude oil futures are falling $0.38 to $52.24 a barrel after sliding $0.39 to $52.62 a barrel on Wednesday. Meanwhile, an ounce of gold is trading at $1,277.40, down $6.60 compared to the previous session's close of $1,284. On Wednesday, gold crept up $0.60.

On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 109.56 yen compared to the 109.60 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Wednesday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.1334 compared to yesterday's $1.1381.

Asia

Asian stocks ended mostly higher on Thursday after U.S. stocks fluctuated before ending higher overnight, reflecting a positive reaction to quarterly results from the likes of IBM, United Technologies and Procter & Gamble.

Nevertheless, the upside remained capped by fears over slackening global growth, a U.S. government shutdown and the U.S.-China trade conflict.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will visit the United States next week for the next round of trade negotiations with Washington following high-level talks between the world's two largest economies at the start of the year.

China's Shanghai Composite Index rose 10.69 points or 0.4 percent to 2,591.69, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index ended up 112.78 points or 0.4 percent at 27,120.98.

Meanwhile, Japanese shares turned in a mixed performance after data showed the Japanese manufacturing sector slipped into stagnation in January. The manufacturing PMI stood at 50.0, down from 52.6 in December.

Worries about global economic growth and uncertainty over U.S.-China trade talks also kept investors nervous.

The Nikkei 225 Index edged down 19.09 points or 0.1 percent to 20,574.63, while the broader Topix rose 5.57 points or 0.4 percent to 1,552.60.

Tech stocks finished higher, with Advantest rising 6.2 percent and Tokyo Electron climbing 4.5 percent.

Australian markets moved modestly higher, with energy stocks leading the advance after Santos posted record quarterly revenue and said it expects 2019 production to rise by up to 32 percent.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 22.00 points or 0.4 percent to 5,865.70, and the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 21.80 points or 0.4 percent at 5,930.50.

Santos jumped 3.9 percent, while rivals Woodside Petroleum, Oil Search and Origin Energy climbed around 2 percent. Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto ended little changed, hurt by soft iron ore prices.

OZ Minerals rallied 3.4 percent despite the company reporting a decline in fourth-quarter copper production.

On the other hand, gold miners extended losses for the fourth straight session. Evolution slumped 4.1 percent after it reported a decrease in gold production for the December quarter. Regis Resources dropped 2.6 percent and Northern Star plunged 5.4 percent.

Coles Group lost 1.1 percent. The supermarket giant said it would make a pre-tax provision of A$146 million in its first-half results for a distribution network overhaul that will cut costs as well as jobs.

In economic news, the jobless rate in Australia came in at a seasonally adjusted 5.0 percent in December. That was below expectations for 5.1 percent, which would have been unchanged from November. The Australian economy added 21,600 jobs last month, beating forecasts for the addition of 18,000.

Europe

European stocks are turning in a mixed performance after the European Central Bank left its key interest rates and forward guidance unchanged on Thursday.

The ECB indicated several risks, including the persistent slowing of the economy, global trade tensions and the Brexit chaos, cloud the outlook for Eurozone growth.

While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is down by 0.4 percent, the German DAX Index is up by 0.2 percent and the French CAC 40 Index is up by 0.5 percent.

Fresenius has moved to the upside in Frankfurt after Bank of America Merrill Lynch upgraded its rating on the company's stock to Buy.

Solar energy equipment supplier SMA Solar Technology has also jumped. The company met earnings and sales expectations for fiscal 2018 and said that it expects growth in fiscal 2019.

Shares of STMicroelectronics NV have surged after the Geneva-based semiconductor company reported earnings and revenues in its fourth quarter that topped forecasts.

Meanwhile, Danish enzymes maker Novozymes has tumbled after it warned of uncertainties in the Middle East markets.

Restaurant Group has also slumped. The British company said that its like-for-like sales for the 52 weeks ended December 30th declined 2.0 percent, while total sales increased 1.0 percent.

In economic news, the Eurozone private sector expanded at the weakest pace in five-and-a-half years at the start of the year, reflecting a weaker pace of growth in both manufacturing and services, preliminary survey data from IHS Markit showed.

The flash Composite PMI dropped to 66-month low of 50.7 from 51.1 in December. Economists had forecast a score of 51.4.

The flash manufacturing PMI fell to a 50-month low of 50.5, while the services PMI eased to a 65-month low of 50.8.

U.S. Economic Reports

A report released by the Labor Department showed first-time claims for U.S. unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell to their lowest level in almost fifty years in the week ended January 19th.

The report said initial jobless claims slid to 199,000, a decrease of 13,000 from the previous week's revised level of 212,000.

The drop surprised economists, who had expected jobless claims to rise to 220,000 from the 213,000 originally reported for the previous week.

With the unexpected decrease, jobless claims fell to their lowest level since hitting 197,000 in November of 1969.

The Conference Board is due to release its report on leading economic indicators in the month of December at 10 am ET. The leading economic index is expected to edge down by 0.1 percent.

At 11 am ET, the Energy Information Administration is scheduled to release its report on oil inventories in the week ended January 18th.

The Treasury Department is also due to announce the details of next week's auctions of two-year, five-year, and seven-year notes at 11 am ET.

Stocks In Focus

Shares of Xilinx (XLNX) are moving sharply higher in pre-market trading after the chipmaker reported better than expected fiscal third quarter results and provided upbeat guidance for the current quarter.

Small plane and helicopter maker Textron (TXT) is also seeing significant pre-market strength after reporting fourth quarter earnings that exceeded expectations.

Shares of American Airlines (AAL) are also likely to move to the upside after the airline reported fourth quarter earnings that beat expectations and forecast full-year 2019 earnings above estimates.

On the other hand, shares of McCormick & Co. (MKC) may come under pressure after the spices and seasoning company reported weaker than expected fourth quarter results.

Software company Citrix Systems (CTXS) may also see initial weakness after reporting fourth quarter results that beat estimates but providing disappointing guidance.

Shares of Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) may also move to the downside after the drug giant reported better than expected fourth quarter results but withdrew an FDA application for a blockbuster cancer drug combination.