MARKET SNAPSHOT: U.S. Stocks On Pause As Tax Bill, New Fed Boss Comes In Focus

By Sara Sjolin, MarketWatch Features Dow Jones Newswires

Apple earnings are due after the market closes

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U.S. stock futures were little changed on Thursday, as traders took a cautious approach ahead of two closely watched events expected to finally land: Trump's choice of Federal Reserve Chairman and the unveiling of a House Republican tax bill.

Tesla and Facebook are expected to be in focus after they issued quarterly reports late Wednesday. After the market closes Thursday, attention should turn to earnings from tech giant Apple and coffee-chain Starbucks.

What are stock indexes doing?

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 22 points, or 0.1%, to 23,394, while those for the S&P 500 index was flat at 2,575. Futures for the Nasdaq-100 index was up 6 points, or less than 0.1%, at 6,246.

The S&P 500 and Dow hit intraday records during Wednesday's session (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/sp-dow-poised-for-fresh-records-at-open-as-investors-take-heart-from-earnings-2017-11-01) and ended higher, mere points shy of their all-time closing highs. The Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 0.2% on Wednesday on falls for biotech and large-cap tech stocks.

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What's driving the markets?

A tax bill from House Republicans, which was postponed one day to Thursday (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/house-gop-delays-tax-bill-plans-to-keep-top-individual-rate-of-396-2017-10-31) to give lawmakers more time to iron out unresolved issues, should hit today. Hopes for the passage of tax reforms in Washington, including corporate tax cuts, have buoyed investing in stocks.

Republicans are running into difficulties reaching consensus on the tax cuts and that the expected corporate tax cuts to 20% from 35% only would be temporary, according to reports (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/report-that-us-corporate-tax-cut-could-be-temporary-hits-stock-futures-dollar-2017-11-02).

(https://twitter.com/damianpaletta/status/925842836804833281)

Also in focus is the next Fed chair. President Donald Trump is expected to announce his pick later Thursday, with Fed Gov. Jerome Powell seen as the likely choice. The Wall Street Journal reported that the White House has already notified Powell (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/white-house-has-informed-powell-he-will-be-next-fed-chief-report-2017-11-01) that Trump intends to nominate him.

Read:What a Jerome Powell-led Fed may look like (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/imagining-life-under-a-jerome-powell-fed-2017-10-20)

Read:How the next Federal Reserve chair could affect you and your mortgage (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/how-the-next-federal-reserve-chair-could-affect-you-and-your-mortgage-2017-10-31)

Across the pond, the Bank of England raised its key interest rate by a quarter-percentage point to 0.5%, meeting widely held expectations for the first rate increase to be enacted since July 2007.

However, the central bank left the level of bond purchases unchanged.

Read: 5 things investors need to know as the Bank of England prepares for historic rate increase (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/5-things-investors-need-to-know-as-the-bank-of-england-prepares-for-historic-rate-hike-2017-10-31)

(http://www.marketwatch.com/story/5-things-investors-need-to-know-as-the-bank-of-england-prepares-for-historic-rate-hike-2017-10-31)What are analysts saying?

"It's a busy old day for markets, with the GOP tax bill proposal due later, and the likely shake-up at the Federal Reserve. Jerome Powell is tipped, and that's broadly a continuity choice, certainly not the hawkish shift that a Taylor appointment would entail," said Neil Wilson, senior market analyst at ETX Capital, in a note.

"Who runs the Fed is less important than what Congress does on tax. Fed officials have yet to factor in any tax reform to their projections so any cuts will push the FOMC to be more hawkish," he added.

What economic data are in focus?

Initial U.S. jobless claims (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/layoffs-in-us-back-to-nearly-45-year-low-jobless-claims-show-2017-11-02), a tool to measure layoffs, fell by 5,000 to 229,000 in the week ended Oct. 28. That was lower than the 235,000 estimate of economists polled by MarketWatch.

Meanwhile, the productivity of American firms and workers (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/hard-at-work-us-productivity-hits-three-year-high-2017-11-02)rose 3% in the third quarter.

Which stocks are in focus?

Shares of Tesla Inc. (TSLA) dropped 5.9% ahead of the open after the electric car maker late Wednesday reported a wider-than-expected loss (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/tesla-announces-worst-quarter-ever-model-3-delays-2017-11-01).

Facebook Inc.(FB) slipped 1% premarket even after earnings out late Wednesday beat forecasts (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/facebook-stock-up-after-earnings-and-revenue-beat-2017-11-01). Lawmakers on Wednesday warned Facebook, Alphabet Inc.'s Google(GOOGL)(GOOGL) and Twitter Inc.(TWTR) that they are considering tougher regulations on social-media sites (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/lawmakers-warn-social-media-execs-to-fix-problems-or-face-new-regulations-2017-11-01)over concerns of foreign intervention via their platforms.

Alphabet shares were down 0.2% before Thursday's open, and Twitter was down 0.7%.

L Brands, Inc. (LB) shares soared 8.3% after October sales growth. Ralph Lauren Corp.(RL) tock jumped 4% after earnings and revenue beat expectations.

Qualcomm Inc.(QCOM) lost 0.8% ahead of the open. The chip designer late Wednesday reported an 89% plunge in profits (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/qualcomm-earnings-hurt-by-fine-apple-dispute-2017-11-01), largely due to a $778 million charge related to a fine by Taiwanese regulators and Apple Inc.'s (AAPL) continued withholding of patent royalties on iPhones and iPads.

On Thursday, earnings from Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.(BABA), DowDuPont Inc.(DWDP), Cigna Corp.(CI) and Yum! Brands Inc.(YUM) are expected ahead of the open. And after the market closes, Apple and Starbucks Corp.(SBUX) are slated to report.

Read:Apple earnings: iPhone X supply is the question, but the answer may not matter (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/apple-earnings-iphone-x-supply-is-the-question-but-the-answer-may-not-matter-2017-10-30)

What are other markets doing?

The pound plunged to $1.31 (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/pound-strengthens-ahead-of-historic-boe-decision-2017-11-02) after the rate decision, compared with $1.3246 late Wednesday in New York.

Read:Here's how a Bank of England rate increase could 'kill' the British pound (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/heres-how-a-bank-of-england-rate-hike-could-kill-the-british-pound-2017-11-01)

The dollar fell against most other currencies, with the ICE Dollar Index down 0.1% at 94.686 and on track to break a two-day winning run.

European markets swung between small gains and losses, while Asian markets closed mixed.

Oil futures and gold prices were both down 0.2%.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

November 02, 2017 09:00 ET (13:00 GMT)