US pre-open: Futures point to lower opening, after SNB removes currency peg

LONDON (ShareCast) – Dow Futures swung from gains to sharp losses on Thursday, after the Swiss National Bank (SNB) removed its currency peg at 1.20 franc per euro. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is expected to open seven points lower than Wednesday’s close of, with the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq set to begin the session three and 12 points lower respectively.

The SNB attempted to soften the blow on the currency by cutting the interest rate from -0.25% to -0.75% on larger deposit account balances, but its unexpected decision to abandon its minimum exchange rate shocked investors and analysts.

As a result, the Swiss franc gained over 14% against the euro and over 16% against the dollar, while Swiss stocks plunged over 9%, their biggest fall since 1989.

“The Swiss National Bank has had this peg in place since 2011 in attempt to prevent an appreciation of the Swiss franc to defend its export market,” said Jasper Lawler, market analyst at CMC Markets. “As it turned out, the SNB have just been delaying the inevitable and by doing so caused the pain to hit all at once and to greater extent than might otherwise have occurred if left to market forces.” In corporate news, Blackberry (Swiss: BB.SW – news) shares are expected to attract attention on Thursday after the rumoured takeover talks with Samsung. Swatch Group fell 17% following the SNB’s decision, while BlackRock (NYSE: BLK – news) slid ahead of the bell after announcing its earnings fell 3.5% in the most recent quarter.

Citigroup (NYSE: C – news) fell almost 2% in premarket trading after reporting its fourth-quarter profit plunged as the bank was hit by large legal charges. The bank reported a $ 350m profit compared with a profit of $ 2.46bn a year earlier, while revenue was flat at $ 17.8bn, missing analysts’ estimates of $ 18.5bn.

Bank of America (Swiss: BAC.SW – news) lost over 2.5% ahead of the open after saying its fourth quarter profit plunged 11%, because of a decline in revenue from trading and lending.

In terms of economic data, a report on initial jobless claims and continuing jobless claims are due to be released at 13:30 GMT, with two manufacturing surveys also out.

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