Wednesday May 4th


Stock futures rise ahead of Fed’s big rate decision

U.S. stock index futures moved higher in early morning Wednesday as investors braced for the Federal Reserve’s big interest rate decision, where the central bank is widely expected to hike rates by half a percentage point. Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 69 points, or 0.2%. S&P 500 futures climbed 0.3%, and Nasdaq 100 futures advanced by 0.2%. Markets are preparing for a hawkish Fed, and the central bank is also expected to announce a plan to cut its roughly $9 trillion balance sheet by $95 billion a month, beginning in June. Respondents to the May CNBC Fed Survey indicated they expect the central bank to announce the long-anticipated 50 basis point hike on Wednesday, followed by a second one in June as it looks to cut its balance sheet. The majority of respondents also expect a recession at the end of the tightening cycle, the survey found. “High inflation constrains the Fed, making easing monetary policy less likely if growth (or markets) fall. We have long argued that elevated inflation would put the Fed in a bind – when growth weakens they would not be willing to or able to ride to the rescue by loosening monetary policy,” Citi quantitative strategist Alexander Saunders said in a note to clients. This year, stocks have fallen sharply and Treasury yields have spiked, but it is not clear if the market has fully accounted for an aggressive Fed. “Volatility is likely to continue. Rate hikes have just begun, inflation looks sticky, many geopolitical issues have no obvious offramp, and midterm election rhetoric is just ramping up,” Baird’s Ross Mayfield said in a note to clients. “Though the domestic economy has been resilient, corporate earnings are hanging tough, and the US consumer continues to spend, instability--driven by inflation and rates--should continue in the near-term. Have we seen this year’s market low? Possibly not.” Meanwhile, Lyft plummeted 26% in premarket trading after the ridesharing company shared on Tuesday evening weak guidance for the current quarter as it expects to invest in driver supply. Airbnb rose 3.6% as the company expects a continued travel rebound, and Starbucks added 2.4% after topping revenue estimates. Elsewhere, chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices also moved higher after its report, gaining about 6%. Casino stock Caesars Entertainment was under pressure after missing estimates on the top and bottom lines. On Tuesday, the Dow added 0.20%, and the S&P 500 gained 0.48%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 0.22%. The moves came as the markets attempt to recover from a brutal tech-led April sell-off that saw the Nasdaq hit its worst month since 2008. The Dow and S&P 500 also finished their worst month since March 2020. “If our ‘no recessions soon’ call is right, then the pattern we have seen so far this year will probably continue: with equities punching lower and then recovering at least partially as long as recession fails to materialize, and the rates and commodity curves continuing to move higher over time,” wrote Jan Hatzius, Goldman Sachs’ chief economist on Tuesday. The S&P 500 is currently trading in correction territory, down about 12.4% year to date. LPL Financial’s Ryan Detrick pointed out Tuesday the current correction parallels the size and length of previous corrections after World War II. On the economic front, the private payrolls report from ADP showed an increase of 247,000 for April, well below the 390,000 Dow Jones estimate. The full labor department payrolls report for April is due out Friday. Shares in Asia-Pacific were lower on Wednesday as investors looked ahead to the U.S. Federal Reserve’s interest rate decision expected later stateside. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index closed 1.1% lower at 20,869.52. Shares of Chinese tech firms listed in the city fell, with Tencent and Alibaba declining 3.05% and 3.74%, respectively. The Hang Seng Tech index dropped 3.29% to 4,264.91. Elsewhere, the Kospi in South Korea dipped 0.11% to close at 2,677.57. Markets in Japan and mainland China were closed on Wednesday for holidays. Oil prices jumped on Wednesday as the European Union, the world’s largest trading bloc, spelled out plans to phase out imports of Russian oil, offsetting demand worries in top importer China. Brent crude futures rose $3.73, or 3.5%, to $108.70 a barrel amid thin trading volume, with China and Japan closed for holidays. West Texas Intermediate crude futures rose $3.76, or 3.7%, to $106.17 a barrel. Gold prices were little changed Wednesday, as a looming interest rate hike announcement by the Federal Reserve dented demand for zero-yield bullion. Spot gold was up just 0.1% at $1,870.45 per ounce. U.S. gold futures rose marginally to $1,870.90. Benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury yields firmed after backing off the key 3% mark in the previous session, ahead of a widely expected big interest rate hike from the Fed as it attempts to contain soaring U.S. inflation.