● Markets steady, with update on health of US consumer ahead
● Brent crude adds to recent gains and eyes $51 a barrel

The economic health of the US consumer is in focus, with the potential to push the stock market bull run to a fresh milestone.

The US retail sales data for April will be published at 13:30 BST, followed 90 minutes later by the University of Michigan’s Consumer Sentiment Index for May. Economists will want to see that the “soft data”, the survey-based confidence report, which has been at cyclically high levels, can dovetail with the “hard data” of cash-based aggregate spending.

Analysts are forecasting retail sales to grow 0.6 per cent month on month, rebounding from March’s 0.2 per cent contraction, and for the sentiment index to be steady at 97.

Inflation numbers are also due for release at 13:30 BST — expected to show annual price growth of 2.3 per cent.

US index futures suggest the S&P 500 will slip 4 points to 2,390 when trading gets under way later in New York, leaving the Wall Street stock barometer just 10 points shy of a record closing high.

Oil prices are eyeing their first three-day winning streak in a month, helped by a report on Wednesday that showed US inventories falling by much more than expected.

Brent crude, the international benchmark, is up 0.4 per cent at $50.95 a barrel, while West Texas Intermediate, the main US contract, is adding 0.2 per cent to $47.92.
Gold is up 0.2 per cent at $1,227 an ounce.

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