U.S. stock index futures extended gains on Tuesday as a moderation in February's consumer prices kept hopes alive that the Federal Reserve would pause interest rate hikes at its next meeting. The Labor Department's report showed the consumer price index (CPI) rose 0.4% in February on a monthly basis, in line with expectations. Traders' bets that the central bank will hold rates at the current level at its March meeting stayed at 23%, while bets of a 25 basis point rate hike stood at 77% earlier. All eyes are on the CPI report as the recent collapse of Silicon Valley Bank has spurred hopes that the central bank would soften its policy stance to avoid a broader financial crisis. At 8:32 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 253 points, or 0.79%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 35.5 points, or 0.92%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 100.5 points, or 0.84%. Oil prices dropped more than $2 a barrel on Tuesday, extending the previous day's slide, as the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank rattled equities markets and sparked fear about a fresh financial crisis. Brent crude futures fell $1.64, or 2%, to $79.13 a barrel by 1001 GMT. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude futures (WTI) dropped $1.74, or 2.3%, to $73.06 a barrel. On Monday, Brent and WTI fell to their lowest since early January and December, respectively. Oil prices dropped alongside a continued slide in equities markets. Gold prices stuck to a near six-week high on Tuesday as concerns over a U.S. banking crisis saw investors scramble for traditional safe havens, with focus now turning to upcoming inflation data for more cues on monetary policy. Prices of the yellow metal rallied over $100 in the past five days as the shutdown of three U.S. banks, most notably Silicon Valley Bank – underscored the growing cracks in the U.S. economy caused by a sharp rise in interest rates over the past year. Spot gold was flat at $1,913.76 an ounce, while gold futures rose 0.1% to $1,918.75 an ounce by 20:54 ET (00:54 GMT). Both instruments were trading close to their highest levels for the year.
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