Market Snapshot: S&P 500 takes aim at a record as stock market target weekly gain

Market Snapshot: S&P 500 takes aim at a record as stock market target weekly gain

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

Market participants are watching for updates on Hurricane Florence, which was already wreaked havoc on the Carolinas coastline.

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What are the main benchmarks doing?

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures YMZ8, +0.11%  rose 29 points, or 0.1%, to 26,211, while S&P 500 futures ESZ8, +0.10%  added 3.20 points, or 0.1%, to 2,913.50. Stronger gains were seen for Nasdaq-100 futures NQZ8, +0.21% up 15.75 points, or 0.2%, to 7,608.50.

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?

Upbeat sentiment surrounding the global trade picture has been 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, with 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?

U.S. retailers posted the weakest sales in August in six months and only an increase in purchases at gas stations prevented an outright decline, but the soft patch in spending is unlikely to last. Retail sales rose a scant 0.1% in August, the government said Friday. Economists polled by MarketWatch had forecast a 0.3% increase.

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.

Meanwhile, the import price index sank 0.6% in August, marking the second straight month and posted the biggest drop in 2 ½-years for the cost of goods imported into the country, largely reflecting lower oil prices.

A report on industrial production data for August will be released at 9:15 a.m. Eastern. That report will be 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 was slated to talk.

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, +0.22% moved higher, while Asian markets also had a mostly positive session.

Gold futures GCZ8, -0.02% were trading flat, while oil futures CLV8, +0.35% were tipping higher as the ICE U.S. Dollar Index DXY, +0.13% gained some altitude in an otherwise downbeat week for bucks.

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