MARKET SNAPSHOT: Stock Futures Flat After North Korean Missile Launch, But On Track For Weekly Gains

By Victor Reklaitis, MarketWatch , Ryan Vlastelica Features Dow Jones Newswires

Analyst: 'Global markets have reacted fairly calmly to the test'

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U.S. stock-index futures struggled for direction on Friday, signaling a muted open in the wake of North Korea firing another missile over Japan, although major indexes were on track for a week of solid gains.

The latest economic data failed to provide much clarity. U.S. retail sales unexpectedly fell in August (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-retail-sales-slump-near-end-of-summer-2017-09-15), dropping 0.2% in their second decline of the past three months. Separately, the Empire State factory gauge hit 24.4 in September, down slightly.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures edged down by 5 points, or less than 0.1%, to 22,167.00. They had been lower by as many as 44 points, according to FactSet data. Futures for the S&P 500 slipped by 2 points to 2,492, while those for the Nasdaq-100 gave up 4.5 points to 5,966.00.

For the week, the Dow is up 1.9%, the S&P is up 1.4% and the Nasdaq is up 1.1%. All three are on track for their third positive week of the past four.

North Korea fired a missile over Japan (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/un-security-council-to-hold-emergency-meeting-after-latest-north-korean-missile-test-2017-09-14) for the second time in less than a month, defying rising international efforts to force it to abandon course. In a rare move, South Korea responded by immediately conducting a simulated strike of the North Korean launch site, while alerts were sent in Japan to smartphones of people living in areas where the missile passed over early Friday local time.

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"Global markets have reacted fairly calmly to the test," said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK, in a note. "Yet it is hard to escape the feeling that this so-called shadow boxing between North Korea and the rest of the world could end with a miscalculation from one side or the other."

Gold futures (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/golds-safe-haven-lift-fades-leaving-weekly-retreat-intact-2017-09-15)--which tend to draw buyers in times of geopolitical tension--inched down by 0.1% to $1,328.00 an ounce as an earlier gain faded. They had climbed to around $1,338 an ounce following North Korea's latest move.

South Korea's Kospi index closed 0.4% higher, bouncing back from an earlier drop, as Asian markets overall finished mixed (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/asian-stocks-mostly-retreat-after-north-koreas-latest-missile-test-2017-09-14).

On Thursday, the Dow industrials closed at a record for a third-straight session (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-stocks-in-holding-pattern-after-record-run-as-inflation-update-grabs-spotlight-2017-09-14), while the S&P and Nasdaq Composite pulled back from all-time highs achieved Wednesday.

Other markets:Oil futures (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/oil-sees-modest-losses-after-north-korea-missile-test-2017-09-15) were modestly higher, remaining on track for a weekly gain of about 5%. European stocks were mostly lower, largely staying on course for a weekly advance (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/european-stocks-head-for-16-weekly-rise-as-investors-shake-off-north-korea-jitters-2017-09-15). The ICE U.S. Dollar Index lost ground, but still was up for the week, as the pound hit a fresh 2017 high against the buck (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ballistic-pound-shoots-up-to-highest-level-since-brexit-vote-2017-09-15) above the $1.36 mark following another hawkish signal from the Bank of England (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/boe-dove-vlieghe-now-sees-need-for-rate-hike-2017-09-15).

Economic news: Beyond the retail sales and Empire State Manufacturing Survey, a report on August industrial production is slated to hit at 9:15 a.m. Eastern Time, with economists forecasting no growth. At 10 a.m. Eastern, investors are due to get a July figure for business inventories and a September reading on consumer sentiment. The sentiment number is expected to come in at 94.5.

Check out:MarketWatch's Economic Calendar (http://www.marketwatch.com/economy-politics/calendars/economic)

Individual movers: Shares in Oracle Corp.(ORCL) fell 3% in premarket action after the software giant's outlook late Thursday (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/oracle-stock-flips-to-a-post-earnings-loss-after-guidance-2017-09-14) came in below Wall Street's expectations.

See:Oracle outlook raises concerns about growth (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/oracle-outlook-raises-concerns-about-growth-2017-09-14)

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 15, 2017 08:45 ET (12:45 GMT)