U.S. stock market index futures lightly advanced Thursday as investors awaited a key inflation report to assess the outlook for the Federal Reserve’s rate-hiking campaign. Futures linked to the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 53 points, or 0.2%. S&P 500 futures were up 0.2%, while Nasdaq-100 futures added 0.1%. All eyes are on December’s consumer price index reading with the consensus forecast calling for a slight easing in price pressures. Economists expect the consumer price index to dip 0.1% for December but rise 6.5% year-over-year, compared to a 0.1% monthly gain in November and an annual pace of 7.1%, according to Dow Jones. The CPI is well off the 9.1% peak rate in June. Excluding food and energy prices, economists expect the CPI for December will be 0.3% higher than the prior month and 5.7% higher than a year ago. “Inflation should continue to decline, leading to an end to Fed rate hikes this spring, keeping interest rates in check, and buoying corporate profits,” Jeff Buchbinder, chief equity strategist at LPL Financial, said in a note. Stocks rallied Wednesday ahead of the inflation report as investors bet that the Fed could slow down its rate hikes in light of tamer prices. The Dow climbed more than 260 points, while the S&P 500 gained 1.3% with all 11 sectors ending the day higher. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite advanced 1.8% Wednesday, notching a four-day streak. Asia-Pacific shares were mostly higher as investors look ahead to the U.S. consumer price index report Thursday. Economists expect inflation to have cooled in December, which could signal to the Federal Reserve that previous interest rates hikes have had their intended effects. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 closed 1.18% up at 7,280.4 after the release of the country’s November trade balance. The Nikkei 225 closed flat to stand at 26,449.82 while the Topix climbed 0.36% to 1,908.18. South Korea’s Kospi edged up 0.24% to 2,365.1 while the Kosdaq dipped 0.15% to 710.82. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index declined fractionally, reversing earlier gains. Mainland China’s Shanghai Composite added 0.051% to close at 3,163.45 and the Shenzhen Component was up 0.23% to 11,465.73. China’s consumer price index rose 1.8% in December from a year ago, in line with Reuters’ expectations. Oil rose about 1% on Thursday supported by optimism over China’s demand outlook and hopes that upcoming inflation data from the United States will point to a slower increase in interest rates. Top oil importer China is reopening its economy after the end of strict COVID-19 curbs, boosting optimism that demand for fuel will grow in 2023. Brent crude rose 91 cents, or 1.1%, to $83.58 a barrel by 1100 GMT, while U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude gained 74 cents, or 1%, to $78.15. Both benchmarks jumped 3% on Wednesday driven by hopes that the outlook for the global economy may not be quite as pessimistic as has been feared. Gold prices rose on Thursday to near an eight-month peak, helped by a weaker dollar, as investors braced for a U.S. inflation report expected to provide clues to the Federal Reserve’s rate-hike path. Spot gold rose 0.5% to $1,885.85 per ounce, after hitting its highest since early May at $1,886.59 on Wednesday. U.S. gold futures also gained 0.5% to $1,888.80.
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