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Looming Inflation Data May Weigh On Wall Street

iHub News
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February 28 2024 4:50AM

The major U.S. index futures are currently pointing to a lower open on Wednesday, with stocks likely to move to the downside after ending yesterday’s choppy trading session mixed.

Traders may look to cash in on some of the recent strength in the markets ahead of the release of closely watched readings on consumer price inflation on Thursday.

The inflation readings, which are said to be preferred by the Federal Reserve, are expected to show the annual rate of consumer price growth slowed to 2.4 percent in January from 2.6 percent in December.

The annual rate of growth by core consumer prices, which exclude food and energy prices, is also expected to dip to 2.8 percent in January from 2.9 percent in December.

With Fed officials saying they need greater confidence inflation is slowing before they consider cutting interest rates, the data could have a significant impact on the outlook for rates.

Revised data released by the Commerce Department this morning showed the U.S. economy grew by slightly less than previously estimated in the fourth quarter of 2023.

The Commerce Department said the jump by real gross domestic product in the fourth quarter was downwardly revised to 3.2 percent from the previously reported 3.3 percent. Economists had expected the surge in GDP to be unrevised.

Meanwhile, the report said the increase in consumer prices in the fourth quarter was upwardly revised to 1.8 percent from 1.7 percent, while the increase in core prices was upwardly revised to 2.1 percent from 2.0 percent.

Following the modest pullback seen during Monday’s session, stocks showed a lack of direction over the course of the trading day on Tuesday. The major averages bounced back and forth across the unchanged line before eventually ending the day mixed.

While the Nasdaq climbed 59.05 points or 0.4 percent to 16,035.30 and the S&P 500 edged up 8.65 points or 0.2 percent to 5,078.18, the Dow dipped 96.82 points or 0.3 percent to 38,972.41.

Uncertainty about the near-term outlook for the markets contributed to the choppy trading on Wall Street following last week’s advance by the Dow and S&P 500 to new record highs.

Traders also stuck to the sidelines ahead of the release of some key economic data later this week, including closely watched inflation readings.

A report released by the Commerce Department before the start of trading showed a substantial decrease by new orders for U.S. manufactured durable goods saw a substantial decrease in the month of January.

The Commerce Department said durable goods orders plunged by 6.1 percent in January after falling by a revised 0.3 percent in December.

Economists had expected durable goods orders to tumble by 4.5 percent compared to the unchanged reading that had been reported for the previous month.

Excluding a steep drop in orders for transportation equipment, durable goods orders dipped by 0.3 percent in January after edging down by 0.1 percent in December. Ex-transportation orders were expected to rise by 0.2 percent.

Meanwhile, the Conference Board released a report showing an unexpected deterioration in U.S. consumer confidence in the month of February.

The Conference Board said its consumer confidence index slid to 106.7 in February from a downwardly revised 110.9 in January.

The decrease surprised economists, who had expected the consumer confidence index to inch up to 115.0 from the 114.8 originally reported for the previous month.

Reflecting the lackluster performance by the broader markets, most of the major sectors showed only modest moves on the day.

Airline stocks showed a significant move to the upside, however, with the NYSE Arca Airline Index climbing by 1.3 percent.

Notable strength was also visible among utilities stocks, as reflected by the 1.2 percent gain posted by the Dow Jones Utility Average.

Banking, steel and biotechnology stocks also saw some strength on the day, while gold stocks moved to the downside despite a modest increase by the price of the precious metal.