Wall Street set to open higher; Yellen speech to Congress watched

  • Fed Chair Janet Yellen says U.S. economy is strengthening by hints that rate hikes could be more gradual.
  • U.S. equities on track for a higher open.
  • Delta Airlines and Commerce Bancshares among the companies that reported quarterly results.

U.S. stock index futures pointed to a higher open on Thursday as traders were comforted by the Federal Reserve's economic outlook and looked ahead to Chair Janet Yellen's second day of address to Congress.

Dow futures rose about 12 points, while S&P and Nasdaq futures gained 2.75 points and 12.25 points, respectively.

Yellen said Wednesday that the U.S. economy was healthy enough for further rate hikes and the winding down of its bond portfolio — though she hinted hikes would now be more gradual.

Falling unemployment and steady household consumption have helped boost the economy, despite downward pressures from low inflation, Yellen said, in what may be one of her final addresses to Congress. The Trump administration is to decide whether or not it will nominate Yellen for a second term.

On the data front, the U.S. producer price index rose 0.1 percent in June. Economists polled by Reuters expected the index to remain flat. Weekly jobless claims, meanwhile, came in just above expectations at 247,000.

On the earnings front, Delta Airlines and Commerce Bancshares posted quarterly results before the bell. IT services and consultancy firm Infosys will report after the bell.

In Europe, the pan-European Stoxx-600 index was around 0.4 percent higher on Thursday as investors looked to a meeting in Paris between French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Later President Macron is to host President Donald Trump for Bastille Day celebrations. In Asia, the Shanghai Composite in China closed 0.67 percent higher, while the Nikkei in Japan closed flat.

In oil markets, Brent crude traded at around $47.64 a barrel on Thursday, down 0.21 percent, while U.S. crude was around $45.48 a barrel, down 0.02 percent.