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Dow on track for sixth straight quarterly gain, as U.S. stock futures aim higher

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U.S. stock-index futures pared modest losses shortly before the open on Friday, with the main indexes on track for sizable weekly and quarterly gains. The Dow industrials was set to post the sixth straight quarterly gain, the longest streak since 2006.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures












YMM7, -0.19%










 were flat at 20,653, while S&P 500 futures












ESM7, -0.22%










 were off by 2 points, or 0.1%, to 2,353. Nasdaq-100 futures












NQM7, -0.13%










 were unchanged at 5,436.

On Thursday, a rally by financial shares lifted the Dow industrials












DJIA, -0.20%










 to finish at 20,728.49, a 0.3% gain, while the S&P 500 index












SPX, -0.17%










 also added 0.3% to close at 2,368.06. The Nasdaq Composite












COMP, -0.17%










 rose 0.3% to 5,914.34, for its fifth-straight session of gains and 21st record close for the year.

Friday marks the end of the week, month and quarter. The Nasdaq is set to log the best performance of the major U.S. indexes in March—a 1.5% rise, with one more session to go. The S&P 500 is looking at a modest advance of 0.2%, while the Dow is set to lose around 0.4% for the month.

For the first quarter, the Nasdaq is set to deliver the best return of the three main indexes, with a nearly 10% gain as of Thursday’s close. The S&P 500 is eyeing a 5.8% rise. The DJIA is poised to add nearly 5%, which would be its sixth-straight positive quarter and the longest winning streak since the fourth quarter of 2006.

Friday’s moves will have a lot to do with month-end positioning, so investors shouldn’t read too much into them, said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda, in emailed comments.

“It’s been a very good first quarter, with the 20,000 hurdle in the Dow proving to be the catalyst for another spring higher. March appears to just be a natural pullback at the minute, but it’s still early to say,” said Erlam.

“We’ll get a much better idea of how much faith investors have in [U.S. President Donald] Trump and therefore the rally early on in the quarter, with some investors possibly already seeing this as the dip that should be bought,” he added.

Data and Fed speakers: The rate of inflation in consumer goods and services topped 2% in February for the first time since 2012. A government report that tracks consumer spending showed a scant 0.1% increase last month.

The Chicago purchasing managers index for March is expected at 9:45 a.m. Eastern, while the University of Michigan survey of consumer sentiment for March is scheduled for release at 10 a.m. Eastern.

Opinion: Why soaring consumer confidence should worry investors

William Dudley, the president of the New York Fed, was scheduled to appear on Bloomberg TV at 9 a.m. Eastern, followed by a Bloomberg interview with St. Louis Fed President James Bullard at 10:30 a.m. Eastern.

In between, Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari will hold a question-and-answer session at the Annual Banking Law Institute in Minneapolis at 10 a.m. Eastern.

Stocks to watch: BlackBerry Ltd.












BB, +0.00%










 shares rose 3.5% in premarket after trimming losses and stating that it expects to be profitable on an adjusted earnings-per-share basis in fiscal 2018.

Akari Therapeutics PLC












AKTX, +24.20%










 rose 11% gain after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted one of its treatments a “fast-track” designation.

DuPont












DD, -0.83%










 on Friday said it would sell part of its crop-protection business to FMC Corp.












FMC, +14.94%










 in exchange for $1.2 billion in cash and FMC Health and Nutrition. Shares of FMC rose 5.7% in premarket trading, while DuPont was slightly higher.

Other markets: Asian stocks












ADOW, -0.49%










 finished Friday’s session on a largely weaker note, with the Nikkei 225 index












NIK, -0.81%










 marking its lowest close since Feb. 1 at 18,909, and losing 1.1% on the quarter. One of the best quarterly performances in the region came from the Hong Kong Hang Seng Index












HSI, -0.78%










which finished up 9.6%.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index












SXXP, -0.16%










 fell, but was headed for its third-straight quarterly rise. The FTSE 100 index












UKX, -0.37%










also down, was set for its longest quarterly winning streak since 2011.

Gold












GCM7, -0.10%










 eased, while oil prices












CLK7, -0.32%










 inched lower. The ICE Dollar Index












DXY, -0.09%










 was trading modestly higher.

The South African rand












USDZAR, +0.7756%










 was under pressure against the U.S. dollar Friday after Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was sacked early Friday by South African President Jacob Zuma.



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