U.S. stocks open lower with Fed decision and comments on future interest rates due

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U.S. stocks opened slightly lower Tuesday, with traders readying for the Federal Reserve’s interest rate decision Wednesday, as well as the central bank’s comments on where interest rates will go next as inflationary red flags remain.

How stocks are trading

  • The S&P 500 dropped 8 points, or 0.2%, to 4,444

  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average eased 43 points, or 0.1%, to 34,581

  • The Nasdaq Composite declined 40 points, or 0.3%, to 13,669

On Monday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average
rose 6 points, or 0.02%, to 34624, the S&P 500
increased 3 points, or 0.07%, to 4454, and the Nasdaq Composite
gained 2 points, or 0.01%, to 13710.

What’s driving markets

After the S&P 500 index started the week with a less-than 0.1% gain, trading was again cautious Tuesday, with investors wary of taking fresh positions ahead of the Federal Reserve’s policy decision.

The central bank is fully expected by the market to leave its policy interest rates at a range of 5.25% to 5.50% after its meeting on Wednesday, but traders are wary about accompanying guidance on any future rate rises amid stubborn inflationary pressures, a concern that sees 10-year benchmark Treasury yields
holding near their highest level since 2007.

Recent stronger-than-forecast economic data alongside a 10-month high in oil prices may encourage the Fed to deliver a “hawkish pause”, according to Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at Swissquote Bank.

As for oil’s inflationary push, it’s possible that oil gets back to $100 a barrel, Chevron CEO Mike Wirth predicted Monday. West Texas Intermediate crude for October delivery rose to more than $92 a barrel on Tuesday.

In another look at economic conditions Tuesday morning, U.S. housing starts fell 11.3% in August after a revised 2% gain in July. Starts dropped to their lowest level since June 2020, with demand crimped by mortgage rates over 7%.

“[A] palatable air of uncertainty engulfs global markets. While U.S. stocks and bonds have been treading water, oil prices are on the rise, which complicates the policy decisions of major central banks, including the Federal Reserve, ECB, and Bank of England,” said Stephen Innes, managing partner at SPI Asset Management.

The European Central Bank raised rates by 25 basis points last week and the Bank of England is expected to do the same this Thursday.

At Vanguard, Chief Global Economist Joe Davis said a “soft landing is still possible, but not probable in our view, as it would require an unlikely ‘painless disinflation process,’ toward target without a slowing of demand in the economy.”

If the Fed “mischaracterize[d]” the lull in inflation as a win for its tightening plans, that exposed “the possibility of a re-acceleration of inflation, further policy tightening, and eventual recession, similar to what happened in the late 1960s,” Davis said.

Read also: 4 things to watch for at this week’s Fed monetary-policy meeting

Investors will be keen to see later Tuesday whether Instacart can follow Arm Holdings’

example and get a positive reception after pricing its IPO towards the top of the mooted range. Shares for the grocery-delivery app are being priced at $30.

Mark Newton, head of technical strategy at Fundstrat, warned that poor seasonal trends and the possibility of more choppiness in bond yields left stocks looking vulnerable in the short term.

“This week has historically proven to be one of the worst of the year seasonally speaking and Treasury yields remain trading at/near highs for 2023. While this week’s FOMC meeting, or Bank of Japan, could serve to be important catalysts for risk assets, there hasn’t been sufficient strength in equities nor Treasuries to weigh in technically that a push back to 4600 [on the S&P 500] is imminent,” said Newton.

Companies in focus

  • Nio Inc.

     shares are down more than 9% after the Chinese electric vehicle maker announced a convertible bond offering. Half of the $1 billion debt offering will come due in 2029 and the other half in 2030. Money from the bonds is intended buy back a portion other debt securities, while also strengthening the balance sheet.

  • Block Inc.

    shares are off 1.8% after an announcement reshuffling leadership. Alyssa Henry, who lead’s Block’s Square merchant business is stepping down, according to a company filing. Jack Dorsey, Block’s co-founder and CEO — as well as Twitter’s co-founder and onetime CEO — is adding the position to his duties.


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