Market Snapshot: Stock futures higher as S&P 500 takes aim at a record

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U.S. stock-index futures moved modestly higher on Friday, with major benchmarks set to deliver solid gains for the week and the S&P 500 within striking distance of record territory.

Investors will get an update on retail sales and consumer sentiment, and hear from a couple of Federal Reserve speakers. Markets will also watch for updates on Hurricane Florence, which was already causing havoc on and around the Carolinas coastline.

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What are the main benchmarks doing?

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures YMZ8, +0.17%  rose 28 points, or 0.1%, to 26,213, while S&P 500 futures ESZ8, +0.16%  added 3.7 points, or 0.1%, to 2,914. Stronger gains were seen for Nasdaq-100 futures NQZ8, +0.34% up 25 points, or 0.3%, to 7,618.

On Thursday, the Dow DJIA, +0.57% closed up 0.6% to finish at 26,145.99, its first close above 26,000 this month. The S&P 500 SPX, +0.53% rose 0.5% to 2,904.18 and the Nasdaq Composite COMP, +0.75% gained 0.8% to finish at 8,013.71.

The S&P finished 0.3% shy of its record close of 2,914.04 reached on Aug. 29.

For the week and with one session remaining, the Dow was looking at a 0.9% gain, the S&P 500 a rise of 1.1% and the Nasdaq was poised for a 1.4% weekly rise. All three indexes were rebounding from last week’s declines.

What’s driving markets?

Continued upbeat sentiment surrounding the global trade picture was helping to inspire gains at the week’s end. Investors will be on the lookout for further comments from either the U.S. or China after the White House administration invited Chinese officials back to the table to try to hammer out a trade deal. That meeting could take place by the end of the month.

Hurricane Florence was lashing the Carolinas coastline early Friday. According to CoreLogic estimates, wind and storm surges from the hurricane were estimated to cause property losses between $3 billion and $5 billion. The slow-moving storm was downgraded to a Category 1 storm, but no less dangerous, give forecasts for “catastrophic” floodwaters.

What are strategists saying?

“As CPI cools and wages rise, the U.S. seems set to continue its economic outperformance, though the continuing outflows in U.S. equities suggests we are not at the ‘irrational exuberance’ phase of this rally just yet,” said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG, in a note to clients.

Which economic reports are on tap?

The spotlight will be on retail sales, with an August update due at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time. Economists polled by MarketWatch forecasting a gain of 0.3% from a rise of 0.5% in July. Import prices for August will be released at the same time.

Then at 9:15 a.m. Eastern, industrial production data for August will be released, followed by consumer sentiment for September and business inventories for July, both due at 10 a.m. Eastern.

Check out: MarketWatch’s Economic Calendar

On the Federal Reserve front, the Chicago Fed’s Charles Evans is due to speak before the opening bell, then the Boston Fed’s Eric Rosengren is slated to talk shortly after the open.

Which stocks are in focus?

Marijuana-related stocks were down in premarket trading after a report that the U.S. government may ban those who invest or work in the industry or use pot could face a lifetime ban on entering the U.S. Shares of Tilray Inc. TLRY, +14.11%  slumped nearly 8%, Cronos Group Inc. CRON, -10.29%  dropped 4% and Cronos Group Inc. CRON, -10.29%  fell 2.4%.

Shares of NiSource Inc. NI, +0.68%  fell 11% in premarket trade after news reports said customers of one of the company’s seven regulated utilities, Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, were asked to evacuate following gas-related explosions in towns outside of Boston.

Read: Advanced Micro Devices Inc. backs off 12-year high

What are other markets doing?

European stocks SXXP, +0.29% moved higher, while Asian markets also had a mostly positive session.

Gold futures GCZ8, +0.31% were modestly positive, along with oil futures CLV8, +0.51% while the ICE U.S. Dollar Index DXY, -0.07% was steady.

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