Investors await the publication of fresh inflation data out of the U.S. after stocks were boosted in the previous session by weaker-than-expected consumer price growth in June. Elsewhere, China's trade data for June disappoints estimates and Beijing announces new rules governing the use of generative artificial intelligence.
1. U.S. futures climb after key inflation reading
U.S. stock futures pointed higher on Thursday, adding on to sharp gains in the prior session, as investors eyed the release of another major inflation reading.
By 05:37 ET (09:37 GMT), the Dow futures contract rose by 90 points or 0.26%, S&P 500 futures added 17 points or 0.37%, and Nasdaq 100 futures jumped by 103 points or 0.67%. The main indices surged to their highest level in more than a year on Wednesday after the closely-watched consumer price index for June slowed by more than expected, suggesting that the Federal Reserve may soon back away from its recently aggressive steak of policy tightening.
The Fed's path ahead may become clearer later today when the producer price index, another key inflation gauge, is published at 08:30 ET. Economists project that the measure grew by 0.4% annually and 0.2% monthly.
2. Chinese trade slips
Chinese exports dropped at their quickest rate in over three years in June, while imports were also weaker than expected, in a fresh sign of the pressures facing the world's second-largest economy.
Exports dipped by 12.4% annually in dollar terms, outpacing forecasts for a decline of 9.5%, according to customs data. Imports also contracted by 6.8%, a faster decrease than estimates for a fall of 4.0%.
Exports and imports sank by 7.5% and 4.5%, respectively, in May.
The trade figures have cast doubt over China's ability to rely on external sources to bolster growth. Beijing has already rolled out stimulus measures in a bid to inject new life into the country's sputtering recovery from three years of COVID-19 rules and disruptions.
But, as China's customs bureau spokesperson noted on Thursday, high inflation in the developed world and ongoing geopolitical tensions will likely continue to weigh on trade activity during the second half of 2023.
3. China to unveil generative AI regulation
China's government has announced that it has issued a new set of rules to govern the use of so-called generative artificial intelligence (AI) as traditionally strict regulators in Beijing aim to gain some control over the booming industry.
The powerful Cyberspace Administration of China said that companies will now need to conduct security assessments and perform algorithm filing procedures before any product launches. These measures are set to take effect on Aug. 15.
Generative AI utilizes vast data troves to create unique content from user prompts. Microsoft-backed Open AI's ChatGPT is perhaps the most well-known iteration of this burgeoning technology, with the program's recent success inspiring the creation of a number of rivals.
China, which has cracked down on the domestic tech industry in recent years, has been keeping a close eye on these developments. Reports suggest that Beijing may be concerned that generative AI could produce content that does not coincide with its political views.
4. Disney extends CEO Bob Iger's contract
Disney (NYSE:DIS) announced that it has extended the contract of chief executive Bob Iger to 2026, further prolonging an ongoing search for his successor at the helm of the world's biggest entertainment group.
Iger, who returned for a second stint as CEO following the rocky tenure of former head Bob Chapek, was originally supposed to stay on until 2024. But the company said the length of Iger's contract has now been pushed out to 2026, arguing that the move will give it "continuity of leadership during [its] ongoing transformation."
Shares in Disney moved higher by more than 1% in premarket U.S. trading on Thursday. 72-year-old Iger faces a host of challenges to the business, including a high-profile spat with U.S. presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis over its backing of LGBTQ+ causes, heavy competition to its Disney+ streaming service, and weak box office performance of the latest film from its lucrative Pixar division. Meanwhile, Disney has said it will cut 7,000 jobs to save $5.5 billion in costs.
With annual bonuses worth five times his base salary on the table, Iger will likely have ample incentive to successfully overhaul the company. However, it remains uncertain what Disney plans to do after his term ends.
5. Oil inches higher
Oil prices increased slightly on Thursday, hovering around three-month highs, after the softer-than-anticipated U.S. consumer price data suggested that the Federal Reserve may soon bring its long-time rate-hiking cycle to a close.
The modest rise in consumer prices in June boosted hopes that the central bank's tightening campaign will peak after an anticipated increase later this month. Higher borrowing costs threaten to weigh on economic growth and, in turn, oil demand.
Meanwhile, a report from the International Energy Agency projected a surge in crude demand to record levels this year, although wider growth headwinds and elevated interest rates would moderate this uptick.
Monthly oil imports in China, which touched the second-highest figure on record, were also a silver lining in the otherwise disappointing trade data.
Thursday's gains were limited by an unexpected build in U.S. oil inventories, with the Energy Information Administration indicating that stocks grew 5.95 million barrels in the week to July 7, much more than forecast.