Wall Street inched higher Wednesday ahead of Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s highly anticipated speech later in the week.
Futures for the Dow and S&P 500 each gained 0.2% before the bell.
Powell is set to speak Friday at an event in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, the site of several major policy announcements by the Fed.
“With the Jackson Hole event just around the corner, markets are understandably lacking some conviction given the interest rate implications which could stem from this eagerly awaited get-together of central bankers,” said Tim Waterer, chief market analyst at KCM Trade.
The Fed has already hiked its main interest rate to the highest level since 2001 in hopes of grinding high inflation down to a 2% target. High rates work by slowing the entire economy bluntly and hurting prices for investments.
Inflation has come down considerably from its peak above 9% in the summer of 2022, but economists say getting the last percentage point of improvement may be the most difficult.
The hope among traders is that Powell would indicate the Fed is done hiking interest rates for this cycle and that it could begin cutting them next year. But strong reports on the economy recently have hurt such hopes. A solid job market and spending by U.S. households could be feeding more fuel into pressures that push upward on inflation.
Trading was somewhat subdued ahead of U.S. chipmaker Nvidia’s earnings report later in the day. Nvidia, one of Wall Street’s most influential stocks, swung from an early gain to a loss of 2.8% Tuesday.
Nvidia has been at the center of Wall Street’s frenzy around artificial intelligence technology, which investors believe will create immense profits for companies. Nvidia’s stock has already more than tripled this year, and it likely faces a high bar to justify the huge move.
Analysts expect Nvidia to say on Wednesday that its revenue swelled by nearly $4.5 billion to $11.19 billion during the spring from a year earlier.
Foot Locker shares tumbled more than 30% in premarket Wednesday after the shoe and athletic wear retailer lowered profit and revenue guidance and paused its dividend. Foot Locker said sales were down close to 10% from the same quarter a years ago. A slew of retailers have reported mixed results in the past two weeks, with many reporting lagging sales or saying they expect sales to fall in the coming quarters as consumers slow their spending.
Peloton also had a bad morning, falling more than 28% before markets opened. The interactive exercise company reported a much wider loss — 68 cents per share — than the 40-cents-per-share loss analysts were expecting,
Kohl’s rose a modest 1.2% early after the department store chain beat Wall Street sales and profit targets, even as they both declined from a year ago. Kohl’s said it cut inventory and expenses and reaffirmed its annual guidance.
At midday in Europe, France’s CAC 40 and Germany’s DAX each fell 0.1%, while Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.6%.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 added 0.5% to finish at 32,010.26. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.4% to 7,148.40. South Korea’s Kospi slipped 0.4% to 2,505.50. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.3% to 17,845.92, while the Shanghai Composite dropped 1.3% to 3,078.40.
In energy trading, U.S. benchmark crude fell $1.14 to $78.50 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, lost $1.11 to $82.92 a barrel.
In currency trading, the U.S. dollar edged down to 145.46 Japanese yen from 145.85 yen. The euro cost $1.0811, down from $1.0848.
Kageyama reported from Tokyo; Ott reported from Silver Spring, Maryland.