US equities ended mostly stronger on the heels of better than expected non-farm payrolls data. The US economy added 242K jobs in February, higher than the projected 195K gain, while the January figure was upgraded from 151K to 172K. The unemployment rate held at its record low of 4.9% as expected but average hourly earnings showed a 0.1% decline in wage growth instead of the estimated 0.2% gain.
The Dow 30 index closed 62.87 points up to 17,006.77 (+0.37%), the S&P 500 index closed 6.59 points up to 1,999.99 (+0.33%), and the Nasdaq was up 9.6 points up to 4,717.0 (+0.20%). Dow 30 index futures for March delivery are down 14 points to 16,953.00 (-0.08%), S&P 500 futures are down 3 points to 1,992.50 (-0.13%), and Nasdaq futures are down 7.88 points to 4,314.62 (-0.17%).
Asian equities hit two-month highs earlier today, with futures also in the green, reflecting the presence of risk appetite. The S&P ASX 200 is up 61.38 points to 5,151.40 (+1.21%) and the Hang Seng is up 102.30 points to 20,279.00 (+0.51%). S&P ASX 200 futures are up 16 points to 5,141.50 (+0.31%) and Hang Seng futures are up 89 points to 20,189.00 (+0.44%).
Crude oil rallies keep risk appetite in play
Apart from the US jobs data, another factor that keep risk-taking in play was the strong rally in crude oil. As it turns out, US rig counts have fallen yet again, taking the number to levels not seen since 2009 and easing fears of a supply glut. However, this could also give OPEC nations enough reason to refrain from capping production, as their competition from the US is slowly being driven out of the market.
WTI crude oil rose to $36/barrel while Brent crude oil advanced past $39/barrel. WTI crude oil futures are up 0.69 to $36.36/barrel (+1.92%) while Brent crude oil futures are up 0.75 to $39.47 (+1.94%) so far.
European equities could be poised for a higher open, as futures are in the green. German DAX futures are up 2.8 points to 9,782.2 (+0.04%), French CAC 40 futures are up 10.2 points to 4,445.2 (+0.23%), and Euro Stoxx 50 futures are up 23.5 points to 3,029.5 (+0.78%). However, London FTSE futures are down 0.8 points to 6,161.8 (-0.03%) as traders are reluctant to put funds in the United Kingdom in anticipation of more uncertainty leading up to the Brexit referendum.