March 6, 2019 / 12:34 PM / in 16 days

Wall Street set for slightly higher open after ECB pushes out rate hike

(Reuters) - Wall Street was set to eke out gains at the open on Thursday after the European Central Bank kept its interest rates unchanged, pushed out its first post-crisis rate hike to next year and offered banks new rounds of multi-year loans.

U.S. stock futures pared losses after the bolder-than-expected move showed that the ECB was having to revisit plans to dial back its unprecedented stimulus measures as a global trade war, Brexit uncertainty and simmering debt concerns in Italy take their toll on a fragile euro zone.

“The ECB has left rates unchanged and that’s a good sign and that means the recession is not terrible, because if economic conditions were degrading they would lower interest rates,” said Kim Forrest, senior equity research analyst, Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.

“It tells the U.S. companies that have exposure to Europe that area of the world is not degrading.”

President Mario Draghi’s news conference began at 8:30 a.m. ET (1330 GMT).

At 8:50 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 4 points, or 0.02 percent. S&P 500 e-minis were up 1.25 points, or 0.05 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 5 points, or 0.07 percent.

With the fourth-quarter earnings season wrapping up, investors have been waiting for new triggers to drive the market higher, including a potential U.S.-China trade agreement and Friday’s jobs report.

Optimism over the chances of a trade deal as early as this month and the Federal Reserve’s cautious stance on raising interest rates has led to a 10.6 percent surge in the S&P 500 this year, though the rally seems to have lost its steam.

FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 4, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Meanwhile, markets shrugged off latest data which showed the number of Americans filing applications for unemployment benefits unexpectedly fell last week, pointing to strong labor market conditions despite signs that job growth was slowing.

Among stocks, Kroger Co tumbled 11.9 percent after the supermarket chain projected annual earnings below Wall Street forecasts.

Burlington Stores Inc dropped 7.1 percent after the off-price retailer’s quarterly revenue missed estimates and forecast slower comparable sales growth in 2019.

Reporting by Medha Singh and Amy Caren Daniel in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur

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