Stock futures point to a higher open ahead of Yellen testimony


Stock futures pointed to a higher open Tuesday morning as traders returned from a long holiday weekend in the U.S. and eyed signs of mounting support for significant fiscal stimulus out of Washington.

Contracts on the Dow added 190 points, or 0.6%, with about two hours left until the opening bell. S&P 500 futures gained 0.7% and contracts on the Nasdaq outperformed, rising nearly 1%. Bank stocks were mostly higher after Dow-component Goldman Sachs (GS) posted fourth-quarter results that handily exceeded expectations, even as Bank of America’s (BAC) quarterly report mostly disappointed.

On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee will consider President-elect Joe Biden’s nomination of Janet Yellen for Treasury Secretary, in one of the closely watched Cabinet confirmation hearings of the week. Yellen is set to advocate for major fiscal action to help support the virus-stricken economy, and will tell Congress to “act big” when it comes to more aid, according to reports of her prepared remarks.

The hearing may help inform whether Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal released last week stands a chance of clearing the Senate, where Democrats have an only narrow majority.

Prospects of additional fiscal stimulus have buoyed stocks over the past couple weeks, and have come alongside Federal Reserve officials’ commitments to keeping monetary policy easy during the pandemic period. These moves have in turn helped keep an anchor on interest rates – though the recent creep higher in the benchmark 10-year yield in tandem with still-rising stock prices has begun to give some traders pause.

“The sharp rise in the price of some risky assets has become the focal point of market concerns over the past couple of weeks, but the valuations of most assets still look justifiable in the context of ultra-low real interest rates,” Capital Economics economist Neil Shearing said in a note Monday. “Viewed this way, the more important question is whether real interest rates will remain at their current rock-bottom levels. We think they will — and even if we’re wrong the implications for risky assets would depend in part on why they rise.”

Later this week, traders will turn their attention to the first actions of the incoming Biden administration, with Inauguration Day taking place on Wednesday. That day, Biden is set to sign about a dozen executive actions to address the pandemic, virus-stricken economy, climate change and racial equity, according to a memo from incoming White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain. Among a number of orders, Biden plans to extend a pause on student loan payments and interest on federal loans, rejoin the Paris Agreement, and issue a mask mandate on federal property and interstate travel. Biden also plans to sign additional executive orders in his initial 10 days in office, Klain noted.

8:28 a.m. ET: Bank of America posts mixed quarterly results as lending, fixed-income trading come up short

Bank of America (BAC) posted mixed fourth-quarter results on Tuesday, topping consensus estimates for profit while posting weaker-than-expected revenue. Shares fell more than 1.5% in early. trading.

Loans during the quarter dropped 2% to $913 billion as card balances and commercial loans each declined. And the bank’s fixed-income trading revenue – a strong area for most other major banks that have reported quarterly results so far – fell 5% to $1.7 billion. The unexpected weakness came as “weaker trading performance in macro products and mortgages outweighed gains in credit,” Bank of America said. Still, equities trading revenue jumped 30% to $1.3 billion.

Overall, revenue net of interest expense fell 10% over last year to $20.1 billion, coming up light compared to estimates for $20.5 billion. Earnings of 59 cents a share, however, were 4 cents ahead of expectations.

8:16 a.m. ET: Goldman Sachs shares jump in early trading as trading, banking results drive earnings beat

Goldman Sachs (GS) reported fourth-quarter results that handily surpassed Wall Street’s expectations, as the firm’s trading and investment banking businesses powered ahead during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Net revenues totaled $11.74 billion, growing 18% over last year and beating consensus estimates for $10.07 billion, according to Bloomberg data. Profit of $12.08 a share was also well above the $7.47 per share expected.

Investment banking revenue jumped 27% over last year to a quarterly record of $2.61 billion. Global markets revenue increased 23% to nearly $4.3 billion, driven by a 40% jump in equities trading alongside a 6% rise in fixed-income trading.

Shares of Goldman Sachs, a Dow component, rose 2% in early trading.

7:17 a.m. ET Tuesday: Stock futures point to a higher open

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 7:17 a.m. ET Tuesday:

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 3,788.00 up 25.75 points or 0.68%

  • Dow futures (YM=F): 30,897.00, up 177 points or 0.58%

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 12,916.00, up 113.75 points or 0.89%

  • Crude (CL=F): +$0.17 (+0.32%) to $52.53 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): +$10.80 (+0.59%) to $1,840.70 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): +2.2 bps to yield 1.119%

Traders wearing masks work, on the first day of in person trading since the closure during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., May 26, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
Traders wearing masks work, on the first day of in person trading since the closure during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., May 26, 2020. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

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