Futures dip ahead of high-stakes Nvidia results, Fed minutes

By Thomson Reuters Feb 21, 2024 | 4:55 AM

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures were under pressure on Wednesday ahead of chip designer Nvidia’s high-stakes earnings report that could either hurt or further fuel this year’s AI-led rally, and minutes from the Federal Reserve’s latest policy meeting.

Nvidia slipped 1.5% in premarket trading after an over 4% decline in the prior session ahead of the semiconductor firm’s quarterly earnings, expected after markets close on Wednesday.

The company is expected to post a more than three-fold surge in its fourth-quarter revenue on robust demand for its chips that dominate the market for artificial intelligence (AI).

Analysts have warned that Nvidia’s lofty valuation could make it vulnerable to sharp declines if it delivers anything short of a blowout report and also spark a broader selloff among other technology firms that have benefited from bets on AI.

“Investors are baulking at the price put on the big tech names as although another big growth number is expected from Nvidia, the company will need to shoot the lights out again to justify its huge share price gains,” said Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets at Hargreaves Lansdown in a note.

An AI-fueled rally on Wall Street this year ran into a rough patch after data last week hinted at sticky inflation and stoked concerns that the Federal Reserve could delay the start of its rate easing cycle. U.S. stocks ended lower on Tuesday, with the S&P 500 closing below the 5,000-point level.

Minutes from the Fed’s January monetary policy meeting, due at 1400 ET (1900 GMT), will offer further clues on the timing of potential interest rate cuts.

Investors will also watch out for comments from Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic and Fed Board Governor Michelle Bowman on Wednesday.

A majority of traders are currently pricing in June as the starting point for rate easing, compared with March at the start of the year, according to the CME Group’s FedWatch tool.

At 5:16 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 72 points, or 0.19%, S&P 500 e-minis were down 10.5 points, or 0.21%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 70.75 points, or 0.4%.

Adding to the declines, Palo Alto Networks slumped 22.7% after the cybersecurity firm forecast third-quarter billings below Wall Street estimates, signaling cautious spending by businesses.

Shares of other cybersecurity companies such as Fortinet, Zscaler and Crowdstrike Holdings fell between 5.7% and 9.2%.

Amazon.com gained 1.1%, with the company set to join the Dow Jones Industrial Average effective next week, replacing Walgreens Boots Alliance. Shares of Walgreens slipped 3.0%.

Renewable energy firm SolarEdge Technologies dropped 15.6% after it projected first-quarter revenue below analysts’ estimates.

(Reporting by Amruta Khandekar; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)