Stock market today: Wall Street inches modestly lower ahead of more earnings, inflation data

Jan 26, 2024, 12:23 AM

Wall Street ticked modestly lower early Friday but remains on track to close out the opening week of earnings season with gains ahead of a fresh batch of inflation data from the U.S. government.

Futures for the S&P 500 and Dow Jones industrials each inched down less than 0.1% before the bell.

Intel tumbled more than 10% in premarket trading, dragging the entire chip making sector along with it after issuing a weak first-quarter forecast. Intel said it expects to earn an adjusted 13 cents per share in the first quarter of 2024, well short of the 21 cents per share Wall Street had been expecting. The California company’s sales guidance also came in lower than projected.

Markets have been buoyed recently by strong economic data which, along with receding inflation, makes it appear increasingly likely that the U.S. can pull off a so-called “soft landing”: taming inflation without causing the economy to tip into recession.

The U.S. economy grew at a 3.3% annual rate in the last three months of 2023, according to an initial estimate by the U.S. government on Thursday. That was much stronger than the 1.8% growth economists expected, according to FactSet. Such a resilient economy should drive profits for companies, which are one of the main inputs that set stock prices.

The report also gave encouraging corroboration that inflation continued to moderate at the end of 2023. Hopes are high that inflation has cooled enough from its peak two summers ago for the Federal Reserve to start cutting interest rates this year. That in turn would ease the pressure on financial markets and boost investment prices.

The Commerce Department will release the monthly U.S. consumer spending report, which includes the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation. It’s the last major inflation report before the Fed’s policy meeting next week, where most economists expect the central bank to leave its benchmark lending rate alone for the fourth straight time.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 declined 1.3% to finish at 35,751.07 as a key measure of inflation slowed faster than expected in January, to 1.6% from 2.4% in December. Weaker price increases relieve pressure on the Bank of Japan to tighten its ultra-lax monetary policy, which has pumped massive amounts of cash into markets. The central bank is targeting 2% inflation.

“The BOJ will wait to gauge the underlying trend of the inflation path for the next few months. We expect inflation to rebound above 2% in February,” Robert Carnell, regional head of research Asia-Pacific at ING, said in a report.

Chinese markets ended a winning streak following a spate of moves by the government to shore up share prices and the property sector.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 1.6% to 15,952.23, while the Shanghai Composite was little changed, up 0.1% at 2,910.22.

South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.3% to 2,478.56. Markets were closed in Australia for a national holiday.

France’s CAC 40 jumped 2.3% and Britain’s FTSE 100 added 1.6%. Germany’s DAX was up a more modest 0.3%.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude declined 72 cents to $76.64 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 63 cents to $81.33 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar inched up to 147.79 Japanese yen from 147.64 yen. The euro cost $1.0872, up from $1.0848.

Thursday on Wall Street, the S&P 500 added 0.4% to 4,894.16 and set a record for a fifth straight day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 0.6% and the Nasdaq composite gained 0.2%.


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Stock market today: Wall Street inches modestly lower ahead of more earnings, inflation data