UNITED STATES NEWS

Stock market today: Wall Street inches lower as retailers post holiday numbers

Mar 5, 2024, 12:21 AM

Wall Street pointed modestly lower Tuesday as more retailers post results from the holiday season and ahead of appearance by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell before Congress later this week.

Futures for the S&P 500 slipped 0.3% and futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.2%.

Momentum has slowed for U.S. stocks after hitting record highs as inflation appears to be cooling, cuts to interest rates may be coming and the U.S. economy has so far shrugged off predictions for a recession.

Though earnings season is close to wrapping up, several big retailers will report their latest quarterly results this week, which could give analysts a clearer picture of how Americans are feeling about the economy and their personal finances.

Target reported a 58% increase in fourth-quarter profits, handily beat Wall Street expectations as the retailer cut costs and maintained a lean inventory. Shares of Minneapolis company jumped 8.5% before the bell Tuesday.

Costco Wholesale, Gap and Nordstrom all put up holiday numbers this week.

AeroVironment, a Virginia defense contractor that specializes in drones, jumped 17.5% before the bell after it beat Wall Street’s sales forecast and nearly doubled profit targets.

Several events scheduled for this week could upset the market.

On Wednesday, Fed Chair Jerome Powell will testify before a House of Representatives committee about monetary policy. He has said the Fed’s next move will likely be a cut, but he’s also said it needs more evidence that inflation is falling decisively toward its 2% target. That was before reports recently showed inflation at both the consumer and wholesale levels were higher than expected.

A report on Friday will show how the U.S. job market is doing, with economists forecasting a slowdown from January’s strong growth.

In Europe at midday, Germany’s DAX, the CAC 40 in Paris and Britain’s FTSE 100 all climbed back to even after being down slightly in the morning.

In Asia, Hong Kong’s benchmark sank 2.6% after China’s premier said the country’s target for economic growth this year is around 5%, in line with expectations. China’s economy expanded at a 5.2% annual rate last year after growth dipped to 3% in 2022.

Li Qiang, addressing the opening meeting of China’s National People’s Congress, also said Beijing would issue 1 trillion yuan ($139 billion) in long-term bonds to help bridge funding gaps, provide support to financially strapped local governments and invest in both advanced technology and in social support and education.

He said China would expand government-subsidized housing, part of a program aimed at reversing a downturn in the property market after a crackdown on excess borrowing caused dozens of developers to default on their debts.

But the government’s intention to keep its deficit at 3% of China’s GDP disappointed investors hoping for more aggressive action, Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management said in a commentary.

“The unchanged target of 3% fell below expectations and signaled a cautious approach to fiscal policy,” he said.

The congress is the year’s biggest political event, though it mainly just endorses policies set by top leaders of the ruling Communist Party.

The initial reaction to Li’s address and the annual budget report, also issued Tuesday, appeared tepid. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index lost 2.6% to 16,162.64 and the Shanghai Composite index rose 0.3% to 3,047.79, barely budging for most of the day.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index ended flat at 40,097.63, just below Monday’s record close.

In Seoul, the Kospi sank 0.9% to 2,649.40, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 edged 0.2% lower to 7,724.20.

India’s Sensex declined 0.3% while Taiwan’s Taiex gained 0.4%.

In other trading early Tuesday, U.S. benchmark crude oil shed 74 cents to $78 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 58 cents to $82.22 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar was unchanged at 150.53 Japanese yen. The euro fell to $1.0845 from $1.0856.

On Monday, the S&P 500 slipped 0.1%, coming off its latest all-time high. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 0.2% and the Nasdaq composite lost 0.4%.

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Stock market today: Wall Street inches lower as retailers post holiday numbers