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Stock futures remain flat as investors digest Fed minutes, look ahead to jobs data

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on November 11, 2022 in New York City.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images

Stock futures were flat early Thursday morning as investors looked beyond hawkishness in the Federal Reserve̵[ads1]7;s meeting minutes released in the afternoon ahead of jobs data due later this week.

Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 34 points, trading down about 0.1%. S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures both also traded down 0.1% and 0.18%.

The movements follow a choppy trading session. Markets had been down early in the day on the back of a mixed bag of economic data, but the stock rallied into the closing bell. The Dow ended the day up 133 points, or 0.4%, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq gained 0.8% and 0.7%, respectively.

November’s report on job openings and labor turnover, or JOLTS, showed that the labor market remained strong, reinforcing concerns that the Fed could continue to raise interest rates as long as there was still a warm market for workers. But the ISM manufacturing index showed the sector contracted after 30 months of expansion, which investors saw as a positive indicator that earlier interest rate hikes were having the intended effect of cooling the economy.

Shares traded up mainly in the afternoon. But gave up some of its gains after the release of minutes from the Fed’s December meeting, which showed the central bank remained committed to higher interest rates “for some time”.

Investors have “wounds that are still fresh” after 2022, which brought the worst year for the stock market since 2008, said Keith Buchanan, a portfolio manager at GLOBALT Investments. He said investors are trying to balance what each new piece of economic data or Fed comments might indicate with broader concerns about the future.

“Every day that goes by and we get a data point that’s moving in the right direction, that’s positive,” Buchanan said. “But it’s also quickly followed up with fear of how sensitive and delicate this moment is.”

Investors will watch Thursday for more data on jobs, the trade deficit and business activity. Fed speakers Raphael Bostic and James Bullard are also both scheduled to speak.

On Friday, investors will review data on nonfarm payrolls, unemployment and hourly wages. Since the report could have a big impact on the Fed’s next move, it has the potential to affect the market. Investors do not want to see big gains in wage growth.

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