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Looming Fed Meeting, Inflation Data May Lead To Choppy Trading On Wall Street

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June 10 2024 9:06AM

The major U.S. index futures are currently pointing to a roughly flat open on Monday, with stocks likely to extend the lackluster performance seen over the two previous sessions.

Traders may be reluctant to make significant moves ahead of several key events later this week, including the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy meeting.

The Fed is due to announce its latest monetary policy decision on Wednesday, when the central bank is widely expected to leave interest rates unchanged.

Since the decision is largely seen as a foregone conclusion, traders are likely to pay closer attention to Fed officials’ latest projections for the economy and rates.

Ahead of the Fed announcement, the Labor Department is scheduled to release its report on consumer price inflation in the month of May.

Economists currently expect consumer prices to inch up by 0.1 percent in May after climbing by 0.3 percent in April, while core consumer prices, which exclude food and energy prices, are expected to increase by 0.3 percent for the second straight month.

The annual rate of growth by consumer prices is expected to come in unchanged at 3.4 percent, but the annual rate of core consumer price growth is expected to slow to 3.5 percent in May from 3.6 percent in April.

Reports on producer prices, import and export prices and consumer sentiment and inflation expectations may also attract attention later in the week.

Stocks showed a lack of direction over the course of the trading day on Friday, extending the lackluster performance seen during Thursday’s session. The major averages spent the day bouncing back and forth across the unchanged line before closing modestly lower.

After reaching a new record intraday high in early afternoon trading, the S&P 500 ended the day down 5.97 points or 0.1 percent at 5,346.99. The Dow also dipped 87.18 points or 0.2 percent to 38,798.99, while the Nasdaq slipped 39.99 points or 0.2 percent to 17,133.13.

For the week, the Nasdaq surged by 2.4 percent and the S&P 500 jumped by 1.3 percent. The narrower Dow posted a more modest gain, rising by 0.3 percent.

The choppy trading on Wall Street came as traders reacted to the Labor Department’s closely watched monthly jobs report.

The report showed employment jumped by much more than expected in May but also showed an unexpected uptick in the unemployment rate.

The Labor Department said non-farm payroll employment surged by 272,000 jobs in May after climbing by a downwardly revised 165,000 jobs in April.

Economists had expected employment to increase by about 185,000 jobs compared to the addition of 175,000 jobs originally reported for the previous month.

The report also showed the annual rate of growth by average hourly employee earnings accelerated to 4.1 percent in May from 4.0 percent in April.

Meanwhile, the Labor Department said the unemployment rate crept up to 4.0 percent in May from 3.9 percent in April. The unemployment rate was expected to remain unchanged.

With the unexpected increase, the unemployment rate reached its highest level since hitting a matching rate in January 2022.

“The May jobs report is a Rorschach blot,” said Bill Adams, Chief Economist for Comerica Bank. “Optimists about the growth outlook will see solid payrolls growth as a sign the expansion continues unabated.”

He added, “Pessimists will focus on the unemployment rate’s uptick to the highest since early 2022, the increase in part-time employment, and the dip in temporary employment, which is often a leading indicator of broader job market weakness.”

Adams suggested there would also be the same “one-hand, other-hand interpretations” of the report to describe the interest rate outlook.

“Accelerating pay growth could be a sign of inflationary pressures ready to rebound if the Fed takes their foot off the brake,” he said. “On the other hand, higher unemployment could signal weaker wage growth ahead, softer consumer demand, and less pricing power for businesses, which would cool inflation.

While most of the major sectors showed only modest moves, gold stocks saw substantial weakness, resulting in a 6.6 percent nosedive by the NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index. The sell-off by gold stocks came amid a steep drop by the price of the precious metal.

Steel stocks also showed a significant move to the downside on the day, dragging the NYSE Arca Steel Index down by 1.9 percent to a six-month closing low.

Considerable weakness was also visible among interest rate-sensitive telecom stocks, as reflected by the 1.8 percent loss posted by the NYSE Arca North American Telecom Index.

Networking, housing and airline stocks also saw notable weakness, while pharmaceutical and banking stocks saw modest strength.