U.S. stock futures mixed after best day of September as auto workers strike begins

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U.S. stock-index futures were mixed on Friday, after the best day for equities this month, as investors reacted to the beginning of a major auto workers strike while receiving a fresh batch of economic data at the close of a busy week for markets.

What’s happening

  • Dow Jones Industrial Average futures

    rose 23 points, or 0.1%, to 35278.

  • S&P 500 futures

    were off by 2 points, or 0.1%, to 4552.

  • Nasdaq 100 futures

    decreased 38 points, or 0.2%, to 15633.

On Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average
rose 332 points, or 1%, its biggest gain in five weeks. The S&P 500
rose 0.8%, for its largest one-day rise since Aug. 25, as a 25% gain by Arm Holdings

in its trading debut helped boost sentiment.

What’s driving markets

U.S. stocks looked set to open flat or marginally lower on Friday, paring back some of their torrid gains from the prior session as investors digested a fresh batch of economic data while turning their attention to next week’s Fed meeting.

The central bank will unveil its latest economic forecasts Wednesday along with a decision on interest rates. It’s widely expected to leave borrowing costs on hold.

Investors were also skittish as United Auto Workers began a strike against the Big Three U.S. automakers, Ford
General Motors

and Chrysler owner Stellantis
Some analysts worry that the strike could drive up car prices, adding more fuel to inflationary pressures that have started to re-emerge over the summer.

More upbeat news about the state of the U.S. economy arrived early Friday in the form of the New York Fed’s Empire State business conditions index. The manufacturing gauge which measures activity in New York state rose 21 points in September to 1.9, the regional Fed bank said Friday. 

Data had arrived earlier from outside the U.S. On Friday, China said its industrial production and consumption improved in August, while investment continued to lose momentum despite Beijing’s increased efforts to stimulate economic growth.

Industrial production expanded 4.5% from a year earlier in August, up from the 3.7% increase in July, the National Bureau of Statistics said Friday. Also, China’s central bank cut a short-term policy rate on Friday, a day after saying it will lower the amount of deposits banks have to set aside as reserves to spur more lending as the world’s second-largest economy shows more signs of slowing.

There’s also the possibility of volatility from the expiration of $3.4 trillion in stock options. According to data from Nomura, 10 of the past 11 expiration days in September saw the S&P 500 finish lower.

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