Stock market today: Wall Street ticks higher ahead of Fed Chair Powell's congressional testimony

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Wall Street pointed toward small gains Tuesday ahead of Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s testimony before the Senate Banking Committee.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average inched up 0.1% before the bell, while futures for the S&P 500 rose 0.2%.

Powell addresses Congress on Tuesday and Wednesday. That testimony will be followed Thursday and Friday by the latest U.S. inflation data.

“Risk-taking will still likely be more measured ahead of the Federal Reserve Chair’s testimony and the key U.S. inflation release this week,” Yeap Jun Rong, a market analyst at IG, said in a commentary.

The central bank has kept its benchmark interest rate at its highest level in more than two decades in an effort to tame inflation.

The Fed’s goal is to cool inflation back to 2% without slowing economic growth too much. Inflation is still squeezing consumers, but it has fallen significantly from its peak two years ago. Economic growth has slowed this year, but it remains relatively strong amid a solid jobs market and consumer spending.

“The first day of the testimony is always the most important day as we will get to catch the overall tone and the key messages. Some expect Powell to sound cautious regarding the progress on inflation and tell the U.S. politicians to be patient until the Fed gathers enough evidence that inflation is on a solid path toward their 2% target,” said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at Swissquote Bank.

The Fed will get more updates on inflation at the consumer level on Thursday. Wall Street expects the latest government report to show inflation easing to 3.1% in June from 3.3% in May.

A report for inflation at the wholesale level, before costs are passed on to consumers, is expected Friday.

Traders are looking ahead to several earnings reports this week including updates from Delta Air Lines on Thursday and major U.S. banks on Friday.

Consumer goods company Helen of Troy saw its shares tumble nearly 27% before the bell Tuesday after it posted first-quarter sales and profit that fell far short of Wall Street expectations. The Bermuda company, whose brands include Vicks cold and flu medicines and OXO food storage containers, also slashed its full-year sales and profit forecasts.

Chipmaker Intel rose another 2.8% early Tuesday following Monday’s 6.2% gain as bullish analysts suggest the company’s next processors will be in high demand for AI-related products.

Elsewhere, global shares were mostly higher Tuesday, with Tokyo’s benchmark hitting another record.

France’s CAC 40 lost 0.9% in midday trading, while Germany’s DAX fell 0.5% and Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.2%.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 jumped 2.0% to finish at a record high 41,580.17. It briefly topped previous intraday trading highs.

Technology-related shares led gains in Japan, with computer chip maker Tokyo Electron surging 3.8% and chip testing equipment maker Advantest up 4.1%. Precision tools maker Disco Corp. rose 2.5% and Shin-Etsu Chemical, which supplies silicon for chips, among other materials, was up 2.7%.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.9% to 7,829.70. South Korea’s Kospi edged up 0.3% to 2,867.38. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was little changed, inching down less than 0.1% to 17,523.23, while the Shanghai Composite surged 1.3% to 2,959.37.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude fell 33 cents to $82 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, edged down 28 cents to $85.47 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar edged up to 161.14 Japanese yen from 160.80 yen.

The euro cost $1.0819, down from $1.0827.

On Monday, stocks wavered to a mixed close on Wall Street, nudging the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq composite to more records. The Dow gave up an early gain and fell 0.1%.