Walmart to report, Biden-Xi meeting - what's moving markets

November 16, 2023 09:24 PM AEDT | By Investing
Follow us on Google News: -- U.S. stock futures inch broadly lower on Thursday after a positive session on Wall Street, while traders look ahead to retail chain Walmart's (NYSE:WMT) forecast for the holiday shopping season. Elsewhere, President Joe Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping agree to re-open military communications after a crucial face-to-face meeting, and the U.S. Senate approves a stop-gap spending bill that will almost certainly avert a looming partial government shutdown.

1. Futures point broadly lower

U.S. stock futures edged lower on Thursday, but remained relatively close to the flatline, following a positive close in the prior session.

By 05:00 ET (10:00 GMT), the Dow futures contract was mostly unchanged, S&P 500 futures shed 3 points or 0.1%, and Nasdaq 100 futures lost 31 points or 0.2%.

The main indices on Wall Street ended Wednesday in the green, fueled in part by the largest monthly drop in wholesale prices since 2020 in October. The figure, which came a day after data showed that consumer prices grew at a slower-than-anticipated rate last month, added to optimism that the Federal Reserve's long-standing campaign of interest rate hikes may have peaked.

At the closing bell, the 30-stock Dow Jones Industrial Average had gained 0.5%, the benchmark S&P 500 had risen by 0.2%, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite had climbed by 0.1%.

2. Walmart earnings ahead

Walmart is set to deliver its latest quarterly results on Thursday, with investors keen for more details on how the retail giant sees trading evolving heading into the key holiday shopping season.

Total U.S. comparable sales, excluding gasoline, are estimated to rise by 3.35% in the third quarter, while adjusted earnings per share are seen at $1.52, according to Bloomberg consensus estimates.

Meanwhile, the company is projected to forecast adjusted income per share of $1.66 in its current quarter, up from $1.53 in the corresponding period last year. Analysts will also likely want to hear more about the holiday outlook from Walmart executives, particularly after comments from rival Target (NYSE:TGT) on Wednesday pointed to lingering pressures on U.S. consumers from trends like higher interest rates and lower savings despite signs of easing inflation.

Unlike some of its big-box peers, Walmart has largely been able to weather a downturn in spending on big-ticket items by leaning on its reputation for offering low costs on essentials like groceries. Same-store sales in the U.S. jumped by 6.4% in the second quarter, topping expectations, while its international unit posted its best three-month performance since at least 2016.

3. Biden and Xi meet face-to-face

U.S. President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping agreed to re-establish military communications following a crucial face-to-face meeting on Wednesday.

The two leaders spoke for roughly four hours at a time when tensions between both sides over a range of issues have been perceived to be high. It was only the second time that Biden has spoken in-person with Xi since taking office in 2021.

Following the gathering, Biden said that China had agreed to return to "direct, open, clear" communication, which had been closed since former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in 2022. U.S. officials have speculated on when China may attempt to invade Taiwan, which it claims as a part of its territory, although Xi reportedly denied that any such plans were in place.

However, a senior U.S. official told Reuters that Xi said the status of the island is the "most potentially dangerous issue" facing U.S.-China ties. Biden stressed to Xi that Washington wanted to see "peace and stability" in the region, Reuters added, citing the official.

Later on Wednesday, Xi told a room full of some of America's leading corporate figures -- including Tesla's (NASDAQ:TSLA) Elon Musk and Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) Tim Cook -- that China and its "super-large economy" are ready to "be a partner and friend of the U.S."

4. Senate passes stop-gap spending measure

The U.S. Senate has voted in favor of a stop-gap plan that will likely avoid a partial government shutdown.

Following a tally of 87-11 in the upper chamber of the U.S. Congress, the measure, which was passed by the House of Representatives earlier this week, now heads to President Biden's desk for his signature.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer described the outcome of talks over the short-term spending proposal "a great outcome for the American people" that will avert cuts to "vital" federal programs.

The bill received wide backing from both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, marking a shift away from the political brinkmanship seen in recent debates over government spending plans. But it remains uncertain if the detente will also be seen when a fresh funding deadline arrives early next year.

Political battles have already exacerbated concerns on Wall Street over America's fiscal condition, with Moody's (NYSE:MCO) last week citing polarization in Washington as one of the reasons for its decision to lower its U.S. credit rating outlook to "negative" from "stable."

5. Oil slips following jump in U.S. inventories

Oil prices retreated Thursday after U.S. inventories rose by more than expected, adding to concerns over lackluster energy demand from China.

By 05:01 ET, the U.S. crude futures traded 0.2% lower at $76.53 a barrel, while the Brent contract dropped 0.4% to $80.88 per barrel.

U.S. crude stocks increased by 3.6 million barrels in the week to Nov. 10, above expectations for a build of nearly 1.8 million barrels, according to data released late Wednesday by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Figures also showed that U.S. production remained at record highs of 13.2 million barrels per day through the week.

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