Stock market today: Premarket trading on Wall Street muted as markets await Fed's rate decision


Trading on Wall Street was quiet and mixed early Wednesday as markets awaited a decision on interest rates from the Federal Reserve and possible hints about the timing and number of rate cuts that could come this year.

Futures for the S&P 500 shifted between small gains and losses before the bell, while futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average edged 0.1% lower.

The Fed began its latest meeting on interest rates on Tuesday and will announce its decision later Wednesday. The widespread expectation is for it to leave its main interest rate alone at a two-decade high, but investors are hoping it will indicate it still expects to cut rates three times later this year, as it hinted a few months ago.

Part of the run for U.S. stocks to records has been because of hopes for such cuts, which would relieve pressure on the economy and financial system. But recent reports on inflation have consistently been coming in worse than expected. That could force the Fed to say it will deliver fewer rate cuts this year, and traders have already given up earlier expectations that the year’s first cut would arrive Wednesday.

Strategists at Bank of America expect Fed officials to stick with forecasts showing the median member still expects three cuts in 2024. But it’s a close call, and “risks skew to fewer cuts signaled,” according to the strategists led by Mark Cabana.

In premarket trading Wednesday, cereal and packaged food maker General Mills rose 4% after it reported third-quarter sales and profit that beat Wall Street expectations.

Chipotle jumped 5.5% after the burrito chain announced that its board had approved a 50-for-1 stock split, the first in its history. California-based Chipotle’s shares, which were trading at all-time highs above $2,797 each early Wednesday, would go for around $56 after the split, which is scheduled for June pending shareholder approval. The company said it believed the split would make its stock more accessible to employees and a broader range of investors.

Intel shares were up 3% after the Biden administration said it had reached an agreement to provide Intel with up to $8.5 billion in direct funding and $11 billion in loans for computer chip plants in Arizona, Ohio, New Mexico and Oregon. President Joe Biden plans to talk up the investment later Wednesday as he visits Intel’s campus in Arizona.

In Europe at midday, the FTSE 100 in London slipped 0.2% after British inflation in February came in below expectations at 3.4%, marking its lowest level since September 2021. That supports hope for rate cuts in coming months.

Germany’s DAX gained 0.2% and the CAC 40 in Paris fell 0.6%.

Japan’s markets were closed for a holiday. On Tuesday, the Bank of Japan hiked its benchmark interest rate for the first time in 17 years, raising the rate to a range of zero to 0.1% from minus 0.1%.

The U.S. dollar rose against the Japanese yen after the BOJ’s comments on its decision suggested that a wide gap between interest rates in the United States and in Japan will persist for the foreseeable future. The dollar rose to 151.69 yen from 150.87 yen, trading at its highest level in four months.

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong gained 0.2% to 16,557.26, and the Shanghai Composite index was up 0.6% at 3,079.69.

China left its benchmark lending rates unchanged on Wednesday, as expected. While the economy is showing signs of improvement, the property market remains precarious.

Elsewhere, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.1% to 7,695.80, while the Kospi in South Korea advanced 1.3% to 2,690.14, Taiwan’s Taiex lost 0.4%.

In other trading, U.S. benchmark crude oil lost 99 cents to $81.74 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the international standard, shed 96 cents to $86.42 per barrel.

The euro cost $1.0844, down from $1.0865.

Bitcoin stabilized at $63,872 after a week-long slide.

On Tuesday, the S&P 500 rose 0.6% to 5,178.51, topping its all-time high set last week. The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 0.8%, and the Nasdaq composite gained 0.4%.



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