U.S. stocks: Futures volatile as growth worries linger; J.P. Morgan ahead

A volatile session in Wednesday’s early premarket hours saw stock futures drop sharply, only to pull back from the worst losses, but stay overshadowed by a downbeat World Bank global-growth forecast and sagging commodities.

Earnings from J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and retail sales lie ahead. Meanwhile, in one hurdle overcome Wednesday, the European Court of Justice gave an interim decision saying the European Central Bank is free to go ahead with Outright Monetary Transactions (OMT), its bond-buying program, though with certain conditions.

Down over 100 points earlier in the session, futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJH5, -0.28% fell 10 points to 17,525, while similar action was seen for the S&P 500 index SPH5, -0.25% last off 1.2 points to 2,014.90. Futures for the Nasdaq-100 index NDH5, -0.17% rose 1 point to 4,159.50.

The source of volatility was once again commodities. Crude CLG5, -0.39% eased 24 cents to $45.64 a barrel, backing off a sharper earlier fall. A bigger concern surrounded copper prices HGH5, -5.14% which cratered 6% to levels not seen since mid-2009 in Asia. Prices were last off 4.8% to $2.518 a pound.

”The slowdown in Chinese growth is weighing heavily on copper prices at the moment, and the World Bank’s revised forecasts overnight further dampened people’s view on its outlook,” said Craig Erlam, market analyst at Alpari. Copper is viewed by some as a harbinger for the global economy.

On Tuesday, the World Bank forecast the global economy will expand 3% this year, up from 2.6% in 2014, but still slower than an earlier 2015 forecast of 3.4%. The economists also noted that oil prices could provide uneven benefits to big oil importers.

December retail sales data is coming at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time, with import prices for the same month due simultaneously. Economists polled by MarketWatch predict a 0.2% drop in retail sales, but market reaction may be muted because the decline is likely to stem almost entirely from plunging gasoline prices.

 Varchev Traders

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