U.S. stock index futures were lower Wednesday as investors kept an eye on the federal debt ceiling debate in Washington ahead of the final trading day of May. Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 120 points, or about 0.4%. S&P 500 futures and Nasdaq-100 futures were both down 0.5%. The move in futures comes after a muted day of trading on Tuesday that saw the Dow shed about 50 points while the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.3%. Heading into the final trading day of May, the Nasdaq Composite is up nearly 6.5% for the month. The S&P 500, however, is up only about 0.9%, while the Dow has fallen 3.1%. The outperformance of the tech-heavy Nasdaq is due in large part to the excitement around artificial intelligence, which briefly pushed Nvidia’s market cap above $1 trillion on Tuesday. However, many on Wall Street are worried that the market’s strength has been too narrow. “We’re not seeing any signs of broad participation. We’re not seeing signs of early cyclicals on top of A.I.,” said Andrew Smith, chief investment strategist at Delos Capital Advisors in Dallas. One factor that has weighed on the market in recent weeks is the fight over the debt ceiling. President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced a deal over the weekend to cap federal baseline spending for two years and raise the debt ceiling, but the agreement has not yet been ratified. The deal cleared a major test Tuesday night after advancing to the House floor following a 7-6 vote in the House Rules Committee. The floor vote is expected to take place around 8:30 p.m. ET Wednesday. “I think we have the votes to pass this today,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry, a GOP negotiator on the debt deal, on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Wednesday morning. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index tumbled nearly 2% to a new low for 2023 as Asia-Pacific markets mostly fell on Wednesday. The index briefly entered bear market territory and closed 1.94% lower at 18,234.27 as China’s latest manufacturing purchasing managers index slid for a second-straight month in May to 48.8, a steeper contraction than April’s 49.2. Mainland Chinese markets were also all lower, with the Shanghai Composite falling 0.61% to end at 3,204.56 and the Shenzhen Component down 0.7% to finish at 10,793.85. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 retreated from its 33-year high and fell 1.41% to close at 30,887.88, while the Topix declined 1.32% to 2,130.63. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dropped 1.64% to end its session at 7,091.3 as the country’s weighted inflation rate rose more than expected to 6.8%. The reading was higher than the 6.4% expected by economists polled by Reuters. South Korea’s Kospi reversed earlier gains and lost 0.32% to close at 2,577.12 while the Kosdaq advanced 0.64% to 856.94. Oil prices fell on Wednesday on a stronger U.S. dollar and as weak data from top oil importer China raised demand fears. Brent crude futures for August delivery were last down $1.69, or 2.3%, to $71.85 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude (WTI) fell $1.91, or 2.75%, to $67.55. Gold prices steadied on Wednesday yet was headed for its first monthly decline in three as the U.S. dollar climbed on expectations the Federal Reserve would keep interest rates higher for longer than previously thought. Spot gold was up 0.05% at $1,960.08 per ounce and has lost 1.58% so far this month. U.S. gold futures also gained 0.1% to $1,959.90.
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