By Joe Wallace 

U.S. stock futures slipped Wednesday, pointing to the Dow extending its decline a day after its biggest drop since February, as investors awaited fresh inflation data that could test their appetite for shares and bonds.

Futures for the S&P 500 edged down 0.3%, a day after the broad stocks gauge posted its biggest two-decline since early March. Contracts for technology-heavy Nasdaq-100 fell 0.4%. Contracts on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which suffered its biggest drop since late February, ticked 0.3% lower.

Signs of mounting inflation have weighed on stocks this week. Rising commodity markets, supply-chain blockages and hiring difficulties have prompted some investors to expect a prolonged upswing in consumer prices.

That could lead the Federal Reserve to raise its target for short-term interest rates sooner than it has signaled, potentially weighing on stocks and other assets that have benefited from over a year of near-zero borrowing costs. For their part, several Fed officials have said the economy still needs support from low rates.

Concerns that a burst of inflation may prove more intense and longer-lasting than investors had expected have sharpened focus on inflation data for April, due to be published at 8:30 a.m. ET. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expect the consumer-price index to have jumped 3.6% last month from a year earlier, up from 2.6% in March. That would be the highest 12-month level since the summer of 2011.

"Markets are highly sensitive to headline and core levels of inflation at this moment in time," said Edward Park, chief investment officer at U.K. investment firm Brooks Macdonald. "There is the concern that the Federal Reserve will lose control if there are signs that the inflation backdrop does become more prolonged."

Many bond and stock investors think the Fed will maintain its loose monetary policy, "but at the same time, that conviction gets tested by things like [last week's] jobs report," Mr. Park added. "Markets feel confused and conflicted."

The yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes ticked down to 1.619%, from 1.623% Tuesday. Yields, which fall when bond prices rise, had climbed for three consecutive trading sessions but remain below their March high of 1.749%.

Other factors have also knocked down stocks in recent days, including signs that the U.S. economy -- while still expanding at a fast clip -- has passed its peak rate of growth, said Anna Stupnytska, global economist at Fidelity International. The market was also vulnerable after a steep run-up in prices at the start of the year.

"The main worry is that...because of inflation moving higher, central banks will start tightening," Ms. Stupnytska said. She thinks U.S. inflation will subside next year and that the Fed won't hike rates until well into 2023. Still, multiasset funds at Fidelity International have bought Treasury inflation-protected securities, gold and industrial metals as a hedge against inflation.

In commodity markets, Brent-crude futures, the benchmark in energy markets, rose 0.9% to $69.17 a barrel. U.S. gasoline futures ticked up 0.4% to $2.15 a gallon. Drivers along parts of the East Coast piled into gas stations on Tuesday ahead of what could be a weeklong shutdown of the nation's largest fuel pipeline because of a cyberattack.

Iron-ore futures hit fresh highs in New York, jumping 5.3% to $226.64 a metric ton. Prices for the steel ingredient have shot up due to strong demand from China.

Overseas markets were mixed. Gains for basic-resource stocks helped to push the Stoxx Europe 600 up 0.3% after the index on Tuesday posted its biggest fall since December.

Shares of Commerzbank jumped 6.9% after the German lender boosted its revenue outlook for the year and reported an unexpected profit for the first quarter. ABN Amro Bank dropped 6.7% after the Dutch bank posted a loss for the first quarter, in part due to a settlement with prosecutors over a probe into money-laundering.

In Asian markets, Taiwan's Taiex tumbled 4.1% after the government tightened coronavirus restrictions. Japan's Nikkei 225 fell 1.6% by the close and China's Shanghai Composite rose 0.6%.

Write to Joe Wallace at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 12, 2021 04:59 ET (08:59 GMT)

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