Stock market today: Wall Street inches lower ahead of what many hope is the Fed’s last rate hike

Stock market today: Wall Street inches lower ahead of what many hope is the Fed's last rate hike

Wall Street ticked modestly lower Wednesday after hitting a 15-month high ahead of what traders hope will be the Federal Reserve’s final increase in this interest rate cycle.

Futures for the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average were each about 0.1% lower before the bell.

Later Wednesday, investors expect the Fed to raise its key lending rate by 0.25 percentage points to a 22-year high. They hope the U.S. central bank can manage a “soft landing,” extinguishing inflation while avoiding a recession.

The U.S. job market has been unexpectedly strong since the spring of 2020, when the pandemic wiped out more than 20 million jobs in a matter of weeks. Since then, plentiful jobs and solid wage growth have allowed U.S. households to keep spending, helping to prop up the economy.

Despite evidence that inflation has retreated significantly in recent months, the resilience of the labor market could mean the Fed would still be open to another rate hike before the end of the year.

“There remains a risk that (Fed chair) Jerome Powell could maintain a more hawkish slant than markets would like,” Tim Waterer of KCM Trade said in a report.

It’s also a busy stretch for corporate news, with about 30% of the companies in the S&P 500 due to report earnings this week.

Boeing shares rose more than 3% early Wednesday after the jet maker reported a narrower loss than expected as revenue rose. Snap tumbled 18% after the social media app lowered its forecast for the current quarter.

Facebook parent company Meta reports its quarterly earnings after the bell Wednesday.

Meanwhile, traders waited to see how China’s ruling Communist Party will carry out its promise to shore up sluggish economic growth. The ruling party has pledged to support entrepreneurs and the struggling real estate industry but has given no details.

That leaves “room for disappointment if the stimulus details were to lack conviction,” Yeap Jun Rong of IG said in a report.

At midday in Europe, the FTSE in London was off 0.6%, the CAC 40 in Paris gave up 1.9% and the DAX in Frankfurt retreated 0.8%.

In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.3% to 3,223.02 and the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo shed less than 0.1% to 32,668.34. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong fell 0.3% to 19,381.15.

The Kospi in Seoul tumbled 1.7% to 2,592.36 while India’s Sensex advanced 0.7% to 66,825.31.

Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 rose 0.9% to 7,402.00 after the government reported Australian inflation eased to 5.4% in June from the previous month’s 5.5%, reducing pressure on the central bank for another interest rate hike to cool upward pressure on prices.

Bangkok declined while New Zealand and other Southeast Asian markets advanced.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude lost 96 cents to $78.67 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 89 cents the previous session to $79.63. Brent crude, the price basis for international oil trading, sank by a dollar to $82.25 per barrel in London.

The dollar declined to 140.44 yen from Tuesday’s 141.04 yen. The euro gained to $1.1062 from $1.1045.

On Tuesday, stocks closed higher on Wall Street after more companies reported wider profits for the spring than expected.

General Electric helped lead the market after it reported stronger profit for the latest quarter than analysts expected. That helped offset losses for airline stocks.

The S&P 500 rose 0.3% Tuesday to its highest close since April 2022. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 26 points, or 0.1%, and the Nasdaq composite climbed 0.6%.

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McDonald reported from Beijing; Ott reported from Silver Spring, Maryland.

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