Stock market today: Wall Street mostly lower in premarket as world’s central banks take center stage

Mar 19, 2024, 12:04 AM | Updated: 5:50 am

Wall Street drifted modestly lower early Tuesday in what’s turning out to be a big week for central banks around the world.

Futures for the S&P 500 fell 0.4% and futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were 0.2% lower before the bell, one day ahead of the Federal Reserve’s latest policy announcement.

The Fed’s meeting on interest rates begins Tuesday and wraps up on Wednesday, when it’s widely expected that the central bank will keep its main interest rate steady at its highest level since 2001.

But Fed officials will also give updated forecasts for where they see interest rates heading this year and in the long run. They earlier had penciled in three cuts to rates this year, which would relieve pressure on the economy and financial system.

Across the Atlantic, the Bank of England will announce its latest decision on interest rates later in the week.

Also Tuesday, the Bank of Japan hiked its benchmark interest rate for the first time in 17 years, ending a longstanding negative rate policy.

The BOJ’s decision to raise the overnight call rate to a range of 0 to 0.1%, up from minus 0.1% drew only a muted reaction in markets.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index rose 0.7% to 40,003.60, while the dollar rose to 150.36 Japanese yen from 149.14 yen.

The Japanese central bank said wage increases and other indicators suggested that inflation had stabilized above the BOJ’s 2% target, but noted “extremely high uncertainties,” including weakness in industrial production, exports, housing investment and government spending.

Analysts said the move was calibrated to extricate the BOJ from the extreme policies it has been using without aggressively tightening credit.

“We anticipate the BOJ will maintain an effective zero-interest rate policy at least for another year,” Shigeto Nagai of Oxford Economics said in a commentary.

In equities trading Tuesday, Unilever rose 3% after it announced it was spinning off its Ben & Jerry’s ice cream business and cutting 7,500 jobs.

Bitcoin slid again Tuesday, losing another 8% as it fell to just above $63,000. Since its peak above $73,000 last Wednesday, the original cryptocurrency has lost nearly 14% of its value. Most other cryptocurrencies also declined.

Germany’s DAX inched ahead about 0.1%, while the CAC 40 in Paris gained 0.2%. London’s FTSE 100 was about 0.2% lower at midday.

Troubled property developer China Evergrande Group, announced that Beijing’s market watchdog had fined it 4.2 billion yuan ($333.4 million) for allegedly falsifying its revenue, among other violations, as it conducts a deep clean of the troubled financial sector.

The company said in a release to mainland Chinese stock exchanges late Monday that its chairman, Hui Ka Yan, was fined 47 million yuan ($6.5 million) and banned from China’s markets for life. Hui, also known as Xu Jiayin, was detained by authorities in September for suspected “illegal crimes.”

Chinese markets fell, pulled lower by heavy selling of property shares. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index lost 1.2% to 16,529.48, while the Shanghai Composite index dropped 0.7% to 3,062.76.

Evergrande lost the maximum 10% daily limit, while China Vanke Co., another major developer now facing its own troubles, lost 5.6%. Sino Ocean Group holding declined 4.9% and Country Garden Holdings shed 5.4%.

In Seoul, the Kospi fell 1.1% to 2,656.17, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.4% to 7,703.20 after the central bank kept its benchmark interest rate steady at 4.35% for a third consecutive meeting. The widely expected decision reflected the fact that inflation is cooling but still above the Reserve Bank of Australia’s target.

In other trading early Tuesday, U.S. benchmark crude oil shed 8 cents to $82.08 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the international standard, gave up 7 cents to $86.82 per barrel.

The euro slipped to $1.0851 from $1.0872.

On Monday, the S&P 500 added 0.6%, coming off its first back-to-back weekly losses since October. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.2% and the Nasdaq composite gained 0.8%. Smaller stocks in the Russell 2000 index slipped 0.7%.



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