Stock market today: Wall Street ticks lower in premarket after Powell reiterates delayed rate cut

Feb 4, 2024, 10:41 PM

Wall Street inched lower before the bell on Monday while Treasury yields touched one-month highs as worries grew about the possibility that the Federal Reserve might not start cutting interest until later in the year.

Futures for the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average each fell more than 0.1% before markets opened.

In an interview recorded Thursday for the CBS news program “60 Minutes” broadcast on Sunday night, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said that the central bank remains on track to cut interest rates three times this year, but probably not beginning until May.

Powell’s comments largely echoed remarks he gave at a news conference Wednesday, after the Fed decided to keep its key interest rate steady at about 5.4%, a 22-year high. To fight inflation, the Fed raised its benchmark rate 11 times beginning in March 2022, causing loans for consumers and businesses to become much more expensive.

The Fed chair reiterated that the central bank’s next meeting in March was likely too soon for a rate cut in an economy where demand is strong enough for inflation to re-emerge.

On Friday, Big Tech stocks once again carried Wall Street to a record, even though the majority of stocks fell due to renewed worries about risks of a still too-hot economy.

Stocks felt pressure from much higher yields in the bond market after a report showed U.S. employers hired many more workers last month than economists expected.

That’s great for workers and helps keep the risk of a recession at bay, but it could preserve some upward pressure on inflation and lead the Federal Reserve to wait longer before it begins cutting interest rates.

Yields on the 2-year Treasury rose to 4.44% early Monday from 4.37% late Friday. Yields on the 10-year also kept climbing, to 4.09% Monday morning from 4.02% late Friday.

In equities trading early Monday, McDonald’s shares dipped less than 1%, even after the company beat Wall Street’s fourth-quarter sales and profit targets. Same-store sales came in lower than Wall Street targets however, possibly linked to protests and boycotts in the Middle East over its perceived support for Israel.

Boeing slid again after the aerospace giant said improperly drilled holes in some of its 737 fuselages could delay deliveries of about 50 aircraft. It’s the latest in a series manufacturing gaffes to plague the manufacturer, whose shares fell about 2% before the bell.

In European markets at midday, Germany’s DAX and the CAC 40 in Paris each ticked up about 0.1%.

Britain’s FTSE 100 gained 0.5% after a report showed UK’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.9% in the three months to November, lower than an earlier estimate of 4.2% provided by the Office for National Statistics in January.

Chinese shares again led declines in Asia even after the market regulator in Beijing pledged to crack down on abuses and protect small investors.

The main index in the smaller market in Shenzhen sank 4.4% but then rapidly recovered, bouncing between losses and gains and closing 1.1% lower. The Shanghai Composite index slipped 3.5% at one point and closed 1% lower, at 2,702.19.

On Sunday, the China Securities Regulatory Commission said it would redouble enforcement of measures against crimes such as market manipulation and “malicious” short selling, while guiding more medium and long-term funds into the market.

That move followed others in recent days that appear to have done little to reassure investors who have been pulling money out of the markets for months. Last week, Chinese stocks capped their worst week in five years.

Comments by former President Donald Trump, who said he might impose a tariff of more than 60% on imports of Chinese goods if he is re-elected, also hurt market sentiment.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng edged 0.2% lower to 15,510.01.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index climbed 0.6% to 36,354.16.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 sank 1% to 7,625.90. South Korea’s Kospi shed 0.9% to 2,591.31.

In other trading, benchmark U.S. crude lost 19 cents to $72.09 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the international standard, gave up 4 cents to $77.29 a barrel.

The U.S. dollar rose to 148.59 Japanese yen from 148.40 yen. The euro cost $1.0748, down from $1.0784.


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Stock market today: Wall Street ticks lower in premarket after Powell reiterates delayed rate cut