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Stock market today: Wall Street set to open with small gains as Powell heads to Capitol Hill again

Mar 6, 2024, 10:54 PM | Updated: Mar 7, 2024, 5:04 am

Wall Street pointed toward small gains before the open Thursday ahead of more testimony from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell on Capitol Hill.

Futures for the Dow Jones industrials ticked up 0.1% before the bell while futures for the S&P 500 added 0.3%.

One day after testifying before the House Financial Services Committee, Powell will address the Senate Banking Committee.

On Wednesday, Powell said again that cuts to interest rates may be coming this year, but that the Fed needs more data showing inflation is cooling before it will act.

Investors are scrutinizing Powell’s words for hints about when the Federal Reserve could begin cutting its main interest rate, which is at its highest level since 2001.

“We have some confidence of that,” Powell said about inflation moving down toward its target of 2%.

“We want to see a little more data so we can become more confident.”

Expectations for a March rate cut have largely been shelved, with June now appearing to be the earliest point at which the Fed will walk back hikes.

One of the reasons for the delay is a job market, which continues to put up impressive numbers. The government issues its weekly report on layoffs later Thursday, and its more comprehensive February jobs report Friday.

Economists expect job growth has slowed some, which would provide the Fed with another reason to step back on rates. Such a slowdown could help the economy thread the needle and stay out of recession while also removing upward pressure on inflation.

Shares of the troubled New York Community Bancorp are up slightly after finishing 7.5% higher Wednesday thanks to a lifeline of more than $1 billion from a group of investors, including Steven Mnuchin, the former U.S. Treasury secretary under President Donald Trump. The regional bank has lost 66% of its value this year amid falling values in commercial real estate and acquisitions it made.

Victoria’s Secret tumbled 28% in premarket trading after the lingerie company issued a tepid sales forecast for the coming year.

Costco and The Gap report their latest financial results after the bell Thursday.

In Europe, France’s CAC 40 rose 0.2% in midday trading while Germany’s DAX ticked up 0.1%. Britain’s FTSE 100 was effectively unchanged.

Investors are watching signs from the European Central Bank, where the Governing Council is concluding its policy meeting, and the message ECB President Christine Lagarde might relay in her news conference.

In Asia, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index momentarily reached a record high in early trading but slipped later to finish at 39,598.71, down 1.2%. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 rose nearly 0.4% to 7,763.70. South Korea’s Kospi added 0.2% to 2,647.62. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed 1.3% to 16,229.78, while the Shanghai Composite declined 0.4% to 3,027.40.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude lost 35 cents to $78.78 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 39 cents to $82.57 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar edged down to 147.86 Japanese yen from 149.32 yen, amid some speculation the Bank of Japan may finally start raising interest rates. But analysts say they don’t expect a move yet at the next meeting set for later this month.

The euro inched down to $1.0901 from $1.0902.

On Wednesday, stocks recovered some of their losses from the day before, which was Wall Street’s worst day in three weeks.

The S&P 500 finished 0.5% higher after declining 1% the day before.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.2% and the Nasdaq composite climbed 0.6%.

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