By Peter Nurse
Investing.com — U.S. stocks are seen opening largely flat in cautious trading Thursday, as investors await a key inflation release for clues of future Federal Reserve monetary policy tightening.
At 07:00 ET (12:00 GMT), the Dow Futures contract was up 20 points or 0.1%, S&P 500 Futures traded flat, while Nasdaq 100 Futures dropped 15 points or 0.1%.
The three main indices closed firmly higher Wednesday, continuing the generally positive start to the year, with the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining almost 270 points or 0.8%, the broad-based S&P 500 rising 1.3%, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite climbing 1.8% higher.
Wall Street has been bathed in optimism since the start of the new year as investors bet on a slower pace of rate hikes by the Federal Reserve, hopefully preventing the U.S. economy from entering recession even as the central bank combats inflation.
The market expects the Fed will raise rates again in February but by a quarter of a percentage point, which is less than the half-percentage point increase in December and the even larger hikes at each of the four meetings before that.
That said, the Fed’s policymakers have been keen to point out that such a decision is data-dependent, and inflation has to cooperate.
The December consumer price index is due out at 08:30 ET (13:30 GMT) and is expected to rise 6.5% from a year ago, down from the 7.1% pace the prior month. For the month, inflation is expected to remain flat.
Core CPI, which excludes food and fuel prices, is expected to read 5.7%, compared with the 6% the month before. For the month, core CPI is seen rising 0.3% compared with 0.2% in November.
The weekly initial jobless claims data are due at the same time and are expected to rise to 215,000, up from 204,000 the prior week, a slight deterioration in the labor market.
In the corporate sector, Disney (NYSE:DIS) is likely to be in the spotlight after the entertainment giant named Mark Parker, the executive chairman of Nike (NYSE:NKE), its next chairman, while opposing activist investor Nelson Peltz’s attempt to join the board.
Oil prices rose, shrugging off a massive U.S. crude stockpile build, as optimism over China’s demand outlook rises.
China, the world’s largest crude importer, has reopened its international borders, ending its restrictive zero-COVID policy. This has bred confidence that its demand for crude will rise substantially as the year progresses and its economic activity grows.
Helping the tone Thursday is also the hope for a soft U.S. economic landing as the Federal Reserve reduces the size of its rate hikes.
U.S. crude inventories rose by 18.962 million barrels last week, the biggest jump since February 2021, according to data from the Energy Information Administration.
By 07:00 ET, U.S. crude futures traded 1.3% higher at $78.38 a barrel, while the Brent contract was 1.3% higher at $83.75. Both contracts have rallied over 6% so far this week.
Additionally, gold futures rose 0.5% to $1,888.45/oz, while EUR/USD traded 0.1% higher at 1.0764.