Futures edge higher as softer inflation report lifts rate-cut hopes

By Thomson Reuters May 16, 2024 | 4:39 AM

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures inched higher on Thursday, putting Wall Street on track to extend gains from the all-time highs hit in the previous session as a tepid inflation report bolstered hopes of interest-rate cuts.

All three major indexes notched record closes after a smaller-than-expected rise in consumer inflation fueled optimism that inflation was easing after three months of higher-than-expected numbers.

The market is back to betting on two quarter-point interest rate cuts from the Federal Reserve this year, with traders seeing a 72.4% chance of the first one in September, according to the CME FedWatch Tool.

The Dow is on track to cross the 40,000-mark for the first time, marking the blue-chip index’s fastest 10,000-point climb, powered by strong quarterly results and rising bets of rate cuts.

Several Fed officials are expected to speak through the day, including Thomas Barkin, Loretta Mester, Raphael Bostic, Patrick Harker and Michael Barr.

On the economic front, investors awaited data on initial claims for state unemployment benefits due at 8:30 a.m. ET for cues on the strength of the labor market.

At 05:00 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 28 points, or 0.07%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 3.5 points, or 0.07%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 28.25 points, or 0.15%.

Investors also waited for quarterly results from Walmart for indications on U.S. consumer spending, with shares of the retailer up 1.2% in premarket trading.

Most megacap growth and technology stocks climbed, with Nvidia leading gains.

Cisco Systems rose 4.6% after the network equipment maker forecast fourth-quarter revenue above Wall Street expectations.

U.S.-listed shares of Chubb jumped 9.8% after Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway revealed a stake of 25.9 million shares worth $6.7 billion in the insurer.

Popular meme stocks GameStop and AMC Entertainment slid 16.2% and 12%, respectively.

They were set to extend Wednesday’s losses, after their two-day rally sparked by the return of “Roaring Kitty” Keith Gill, who was the central figure in the 2021 meme stock frenzy.

(Reporting by Bansari Mayur Kamdar in Bengaluru; Editing by Arun Koyyur)