U.S. stock futures languished ahead of the open Friday as Wall Street awaited a fresh print on the Federal Reserve’s most closely watched inflation measure for further guidance on the trajectory of interest rates.
Futures tied to the S&P 500 (^GSPC) sank 0.3%, while futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) edged down 55 points, or 0.2%. Contracts on the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC) declined 0.6%.
All eyes are on the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) price index — the Fed’s preferred assessment of how quickly prices are rising across the economy.
The PCE index likely jumped 0.5% over the prior month in January, Bloomberg consensus estimates show. In December PCE inflation rose just 0.1% month over month. On an annual basis, PCE inflation is projected to come in at 5%, no improvement from the year-over-year figure reported at the end of 2022.
Core PCE, which removes the volatile food and energy components, is set to show a 0.4% climb over the prior month — ticking up slightly from 0.3% in December — and a marginally slower rise of 4.3% over the year from 4.4% in the last month of 2022.
If realized, those numbers would support recent indications inflation is not falling at the pace and extent investors have been hoping for, even as prices have stabilized from the peaks of the current inflation cycle.
“Investors should pay careful attention to the Core PCE Services excluding housing, which the Fed has highlighted as an important metric in their outlook,” in understanding services inflation, North America at Insight Investment Head of Core Fixed Income Brendan Murphy said in a note. “Any outsized surprise to the upside or downside in this number could affect market pricing for Fed expectations.”
The bumpier-than-anticipated road to restoring price stability and strong economic data to start the year — nonfarm payrolls rose by 517,000 in January while retail sales surged 3% — have prompted investors to readjust expectations around the path forward for interest rates, putting a dent in the market’s recent momentum.
The S&P 500 snapped a four-day losing streak on Thursday as stocks closed higher. But earlier this week on Tuesday, stocks had their worst day of the year.
“Equity bulls and even Chair Powell have bragged about anchored expectations for inflation and how consumers and investors believe it is moving in the right direction,” Morgan Stanley Chief Investment Officer Lisa Shalett said in a note earlier this week, noting that January’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) and Producer Price Index (PPI) raised questions about whether inflation progress is stalling.
“Given data crosscurrents, the central bank needs to tread carefully. Investors still wagering on a ‘Fed put; or quick return to financial repression are apt to be wrong this time,” Shalett said. “Fed credibility is on the line, and it is likely to risk overshooting rather than quitting the inflation fight too early.”
Alexandra Semenova is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alexandraandnyc