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Wall St eyes higher open with inflation data in focus


Traders work on the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., January 5, 2023. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Wall Street’s main indexes were set to open higher on Wednesday with the focus shifting to a key inflation reading due later in the week, which would provide clues on how aggressive the Federal Reserve’s monetary tightening could be this year.

After the Fed’s rapid pace of interest rate hikes to curb decades-high inflation pummeled equities in 2022, markets have been clinging on to hopes that signs of a slowdown in the economy could pave the way for a less hawkish stance from the U.S. central bank.

The highly awaited inflation report from the Labor Department on Thursday is expected to show U.S. consumer prices likely grew 6.5% year-on-year in December, from 7.1% a month ago, while core inflation grew 5.7% in December, from 6% in November.

While further evidence of an easing in price pressures could bolster hopes of the Fed pausing its rate hiking cycle soon, recent comments by some policymakers have supported the view that the central bank needs to remain aggressive in raising interest rates to bring inflation under control.

Some Fed officials, such as Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic, are expecting the peak policy rate to go beyond 5% this year.

“(Investors) feel inflation is being tamed and that there’s more risk of not being in the market than there is of being in the market,” said Christopher Grisanti, chief equity strategist at MAI Capital Management in Cleveland.

“If there’s good inflation numbers, February may be the last hiking, or they (the Fed) may even pause.”

Money market participants see a 77% chance the Fed will raise the benchmark rate by 25 basis points to 4.50%-4.75% in February, and see rates peaking at 4.92% by June.

Wall Street’s main indexes rallied on Tuesday as Fed Chair Jerome Powell refrained from commenting on the outlook for interest rates ahead of the inflation data, but said the Fed’s independence was essential for it to battle inflation.

This week marks the start of the earnings season for S&P 500 companies, with Wall Street’s biggest banks expected to report lower quarterly profits amid risks of a recession due to monetary policy tightening.

At 08:12 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 85 points, or 0.25%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 12 points, or 0.30%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 30 points, or 0.27%.

Bed Bath & Beyond Inc (BBBY.O) jumped 27.5% in premarket trading, after logging gains in the previous session despite bleak quarterly results as retail investors speculated it could be a potential acquisition target and as short-sellers closed out bets.

Shares of airlines such as American Airlines Group Inc (AAL.O) and Spirit Airlines Inc (SAVE.N) fell between 0.5% and 1.6% after U.S. flights were grounded or delayed as the Federal Aviation Administration scrambled to fix a system outage, with passengers told to check with airlines for updates.