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Futures Pointing To Roughly Flat Open On Wall Street

The major U.S. index futures are pointing to a roughly flat opening on Monday, the first trading day of the second quarter. Traders may be reluctant to make any significant moves ahead of the release of the closely watched monthly jobs report on Friday.

On the final trading day of the first quarter, stocks turned in a lackluster performance over the course of the trading session on Friday. The major averages ended day modestly lower, with the Nasdaq pulling back off yesterday's record closing high.

The Dow fell 65.27 points or 0.3 percent to 20,663.22, the Nasdaq edged down 2.61 points or less than a tenth of a percent to 5,911.74 and the S&P 500 dipped 5.34 points or 0.2 percent to 2,362.72.

For the week, the Dow rose by 0.3 percent, the S&P 500 advanced by 0.8 percent and the Nasdaq jumped by 1.4 percent.

Traders often use the final trading day of the quarter to do some "window dressing," but analysts noted stocks were already poised to post solid gains for the first three months of the year.

Optimism about pro-growth policies under President Donald Trump helped to drive stocks higher, with the Dow jumping by 4.6 percent for the quarter.

However, buying interest has waned recently, as the failure of the Republican healthcare bill has led to uncertainty about Trump's ability to achieve his policy goals.

On the U.S. economic front, a Commerce Department report showed personal income rose in line with economist estimates in February, although personal spending inched up by slightly less than expected.

The report said personal income increased by 0.4 percent in February after climbing by an upwardly revised 0.5 percent in January.

Economists had expected personal income growth to match the 0.4 percent increase originally reported for the previous month.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Department said personal spending crept up by 0.1 percent in February after rising by 0.2 percent in January. Economists had expected another 0.2 percent increase.

A separate report from MNI Indicators showed that Chicago-area business activity unexpectedly saw a faster rate of growth in the month of March.

MNI Indicators said its Chicago business barometer inched up to 57.7 in March from 57.4 in February, with a reading above 50 indicating growth. The index had been expected to edge down to 56.5.

The University of Michigan also released a report showing an unexpected downward revision to its consumer sentiment index for March.

The report said the consumer sentiment index for March was downwardly revised to 96.9 from the preliminary reading of 97.6. Economists had expected the index to be unrevised.

Despite the downward revision, the consumer sentiment index is still higher than the final February reading of 96.3.

Most of the major sectors ended the day showing only modest moves, contributing to the lackluster close by the broader markets.

Railroad stocks showed a significant move to the downside, however, with the Dow Jones Railroad Index sliding by 1.3 percent. FreightCar America (RAIL) led the sector slumping by 3.5 percent.

Considerable weakness was also visible among banking stocks, as reflected by the 1.2 percent drop by the Dow Jones Banks Index. The index gave back ground after moving notably higher on Thursday.

On the other hand, natural gas stocks turned in a strong performance, resulting in a 1.3 gain by the NYSE Arca Natural Gas Index. The strength came even though the price of natural gas closed nearly flat.

Commodity, Currency Markets

Crude oil futures are inching up $0.11 to $50.71 a barrel after rising $0.25 to $50.60 a barrel last Friday. Meanwhile, an ounce of gold is trading at $1,248.90, down $2.30 from the previous session's close of $1,251.20. On Friday, gold rose $3.20.

On the currency front, the U.S. dollar is trading at 111.34 yen compared to the 111.39 yen it fetched at the close of New York trading on Friday. Against the euro, the dollar is valued at $1.0666 compared to last Friday's $1.0652.

Asia

Asian stocks rose on Monday, although regional gains remained capped somewhat amid the release of regional manufacturing surveys and ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to the U.S.

U.S. President Donald Trump will meet with Xi for the first time on April 6th and 7th at his Mar-a-Lago resort amid heightened tensions in Asia.

Trump told the Financial Times Sunday that the U.S. is prepared to act alone if China does not take a tougher stand against North Korea's nuclear program.

Oil prices dipped slightly in Asian trading on worries about global oversupply, but prices hovered near three-week highs as Iraq assured OPEC it would fully comply with an agreement to cut supply.

Markets in China and Taiwan markets were closed for public holidays. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index climbed 149.89 points or 0.6 percent to 24,261.48 after a private survey showed Chinese manufacturing activity expanded at a slower pace in March.

Japanese shares edged higher in spite of yen strength after the latest Bank of Japan Tankan survey of manufacturing and service companies showed an improvement in corporate sentiment in the first quarter. The Nikkei 225 Index rose 73.97 points or 0.39 percent to 18,983.23, while the broader Topix Index closed 0.29 percent higher at 1,517.03.

Toshiba shares plunged 5.5 percent after reports that the struggling electronics conglomerate will likely miss another deadline to release results for the last quarter of 2016.

The manufacturing sector in Japan continued to expand in March, although at a slower pace, the latest survey from Nikkei showed with a manufacturing PMI score of 52.4, down from 53.3 in February.

Australian shares closed marginally higher as losses in the mining and energy sectors were offset by gains in the banking sector. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index inched up 7.80 points or 0.13 percent to 5,872.70 after losing half a percent on Friday. The broader All Ordinaries Index closed 5.90 points or 0.10 percent higher at 5,909.70.

Bluescope shares tumbled 2.7 percent after the company agreed to sell its New Zealand iron sands business to a local Maori investment group.

The day's economic reports painted a mixed picture, with Australian approvals to build new homes unexpectedly rising last week, job advertisements increasing in March and a private measure of consumer inflation rising in the month, while retail sales dipped in February, adding to concerns about constraints on consumer spending.

The manufacturing sector in Australia continued to expand in March, albeit at a slightly lower pace, the latest survey from the Australian Industry Group revealed with a PMI score of 57.5, down from 59.3 in February.

Europe

European stocks are turning in a lackluster performance on Monday ahead of a busy week on the political and economic front.

While the German DAX Index is up by 0.2 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index is just below the unchanged line and the French CAC 40 Index is down by 0.8 percent.

The day's economic reports proved to be a mixed bag, with euro area factory activity growing at the fastest pace in almost six years in March, as initially estimated, while British manufacturing growth slowed in March to hit its lowest level in four months.

The euro area unemployment rate hit its lowest level in nearly eight years in February, while Eurozone producer price inflation accelerated at a faster-than-expected pace in the month to the highest level in more than five years, separate reports showed.

French political worries have persisted, with polls suggesting that far-right candidate Marine Le Pen is one of the top contenders in the presidential election's first round on April 23.

Novartis has moved higher after receiving EU approval for its drug Tafinlar (dabrafenib) in combination with Mekinist for treating lung cancer.

Burberry Group has also advanced 1 after announcing a strategic partnership with Coty to accelerate the growth and development of its beauty business.

Meanwhile, shares of chip designer Imagination Tech have plummeted after Apple (AAPL) announced it would stop using its intellectual property in new products.

U.S. Economic Reports

Economic data is likely to attract attention this week, with the spotlight expected to be on the monthly jobs report due on Friday.

Traders are also likely to keep a close eye on the minutes of the latest Federal Reserve meeting, looking for clues about the outlook for interest rates.

At 10 am ET, the Institute for Supply Management is scheduled to release its report on manufacturing activity in the month of March.

The ISM's purchasing managers index is expected to dip to 57.0 in March from 57.7 in February, with a reading above 50 indicating growth in the manufacturing.

The Commerce Department is also due to release its report on construction spending in February at 10 am ET. Construction spending is expected to jump by 1 percent.

Stocks In Focus

Shares of Novocure (NVCR) are moving sharply higher in pre-market trading after the oncology company announced positive results from its phase 3 pivotal EF-14 trial adding Optune to standard temozolomide chemotherapy for the treatment of newly diagnosed glioblastoma.

BioCryst Pharmaceuticals (BCRX) is also likely to see early strength after announcing that Mundipharma has obtained regulatory approval of Mundesinefor the treatment of relapsed/refractory PTCL by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in Japan.

On the other hand, shares of Mylan (MYL) may move lower on news the pharmaceutical company is expanding a voluntary recall of select lots of its EpiPen allergy injection.

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