Futures subdued as caution looms ahead of data-packed week

By Thomson Reuters Feb 12, 2024 | 5:32 AM

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures were subdued on Monday following a strong close to the previous week, with focus on a slew of economic data points which could clear out some uncertainty on the outlook for interest rate cuts.

Among the latest milestones Wall Street’s main indexes have achieved over its four-month rally, the S&P 500 closed over the psychological level of 5,000 points on Friday, while the Nasdaq briefly traded above the 16,000 mark, bringing the tech-heavy index closer to its all-time high first hit in November 2021.

Much of the frenzy has been led by megacaps with greater exposure to artificial intelligence, aided further by hopes of imminent rate cuts and upbeat outlook from corporates. LSEG data now shows S&P 500 firms expect earnings to rise by 9.7% this year.

Buoyed by the rally, the benchmark index’s forward price-to-earnings ratio – a valuation metric – rose to 20.4 times in the previous week, way past the historic average of 15.7, as per LSEG data.

Following a broadly benign revision to inflation figures in the last quarter of 2023, traders await January’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) numbers due on Tuesday to determine what could be the timeline for monetary policy easing this year.

Other data on the watchlist through the week include January industrial production, retail sales, housing numbers and February preliminary University of Michigan consumer sentiment.

As more data reflecting a robust economy roll in, central bankers have effectively been able to push back against traders’ expectations for early rate cuts. The odds for at least a 25 basis point rate reduction in May have dropped to 63%, from over 95% at the start of the year, as per the CME FedWatch Tool.

Remarks from Federal Reserve Governor Michelle Bowman, Richmond Fed President Thomas Barkin and Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari, scheduled through the day, with be scrutinized for any hints on the timing for interest rate cuts.

At 5:53 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 29 points, or 0.07%, S&P 500 e-minis were down 0.25 points, or flat, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 9.25 points, or 0.05%.

On the quarterly earnings front, Trimble added 1.1% ahead of its results, while Coca-Cola Lockheed Martin, Biogen and Airbnb are among well-known names that are expected to report through the week.

Among premarket movers, Applied Digital shed 3.1% after saying revenue from its Ellendale data center hosting facility would take a hit in the current quarter by an ongoing power outage.

Diamondback Energy slipped 0.7% after announcing a deal to buy the largest privately held oil and gas producer in the Permian basin, Endeavor Energy Partners, for $26 billion.

(Reporting by Johann M Cherian in Bengaluru; Editing by Maju Samuel)