Wall Street futures are mostly unchanged leading up to a series of economic reports and employment data that could influence the Federal Reserve’s monetary policies in its lengthening fight against inflation.
Futures for the Dow Jones industrials and the S&P 500 fell less than 0.1% before the bell Wednesday.
There are divisions on whether the U.S. economy is headed for a recession and how U.S. businesses will fair. The biggest question remains what the Federal Reserve will do next with interest rates after hiking aggressively over the last year to get high inflation under control.
While new data on jobs and factory orders could suggest a greater chance of recession, it may also give the Fed reason to hold rates steady at its next meeting, for the first time in more than a year, offering a possible upside for markets.
One report showed employers advertised 9.9 million job openings in February, a sharper fall-off than economists expected. The Fed has been paying close attention to such numbers because the job market has remained strong despite signs of a slowing economy elsewhere. Factory orders, for the second time in as many months, declined in February, according to a Commerce Department report Monday, and the drop-off was greater than most economists had expected.
The Labor Department’s weekly jobs report will be released Thursday, followed by its closely watched monthly jobs report on Friday.
In equities trading, shares of FedEx jumped 3.5% in premarket after the package delivery company announced that it is combining almost all of its ground, air and other operations by next year as part of a $4 billion cost-cutting plan. FedEx Express, FedEx Ground, FedEx Services and other FedEx operating companies will be rolled into a single entity by June 2024 in a companywide reorganization.
European markets were mixed at midday after Germany reported its factory orders surged in February, posting their third successive increase in another promising sign for Europe’s biggest economy.
Germany’s DAX dipped 0.3%, France’s CAC 40 shed 0.1%, while Britain’s FTSE 100 added 0.4%.
New Zealand’s benchmark fell 0.3% on Wednesday after the central bank surprised economists by imposing an aggressive half-point rate rise to bring its policy interest rate to 5.25%. It was the Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s 11th straight rate hike as it tries to cool inflation, which is running at 7.2%, far above the bank’s target level of around 2%.
Central banks have diverged somewhat in adjusting interest rates to reflect the latest trends in their economies. On Tuesday, Australia’s central bank kept its rate at 3.6%, citing a need for time to assess where the economy is headed as inflation moderates.
Elsewhere in Asia, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 lost 1.7% to 27,813.26. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 inched up less than 0.1% to 7,237.20. South Korea’s Kospi added 0.6% to 2,495.21. Trading was closed in Hong Kong and Shanghai for the Qingming Festival, a holiday.
In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude inched up 5 cents to $80.76 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 29 cents to $80.71 per barrel on Tuesday. Brent crude, the international standard, ticked up 3 cents to $84.97 per barrel in London.
The U.S. dollar slipped to 131.43 Japanese yen from 131.71 yen. The euro cost $1.0941, down from $1.0951.
Kageyama reported from Tokyo; Ott reported from Silver Spring, Md.
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