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Futures fall as investors await key economic data amid recession fears


Traders work on the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., March 31, 2023. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

U.S. stock index futures slipped on Wednesday in the run up to a fresh batch of economic data, expected to give more clarity on the state of the U.S. economy amid worries that rapid rate hikes by the Federal Reserve may trigger a steep downturn.

At 5:03 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 46 points, or 0.14%, S&P 500 e-minis were down 8.75 points, or 0.21%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 30.5 points, or 0.23%.

Weak job openings data and falling factory orders on Tuesday followed soft manufacturing activity data on Monday, sparking fresh concerns about economic outlook and pushing the S&P 500 (.SPX) to snap a four-day winning streak in the prior session.

On Wednesday, investors will keep a close watch on the ADP National Employment report before the opening bell, expected to show that the rise in private payrolls likely slowed in March.

The S&P Global Composite and Services PMI and the Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) non-manufacturing PMI for March will also be on the watch list.

Expectations of the Fed pausing its aggressive monetary tightening, earlier triggered by the banking sector turmoil, resurfaced.

Traders’ bets of a no hike in May stood at 54.6%, with the rest on a 25-basis point hike, according to CME Group’s Fedwatch tool.

Escalating oil prices following the OPEC+ group’s output cuts have also worsened the outlook for inflation, adding to investors’ anxiety.

“The concern is the Federal Reserve might have to sound the retreat before its war on inflation is truly done,” said AJ Bell head of financial analysis Danni Hewson.

“This could leave us with the worst of all worlds – the dreaded stagflation where the economy is shrinking but prices are continuing to surge higher.”

As U.S. Treasury yields rebounded after falling over the past few sessions, major technology and other growth stocks like Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O), Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) fell between 0.2% and 0.8% in premarket trading.

Among individual stocks, Nvidia Corp (NVDA.O) fell 1.2% after Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google said that its supercomputer-trained artificial intelligence models were better than the chipmaker’s comparable systems.

Both the benchmark S&P 500 and tech-heavy Nasdaq (.IXIC) are on track to notch weekly declines in four in the holiday-shortened week.

Western Alliance Bancorp (WAL.N) dropped 2.2% after the bank’s first-quarter unrealized losses on securities and held-for-investment (HFI) loans narrowed since 2022 end.

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) gained 3% after placing its unit in bankruptcy for second time to pay $8.9 billion to settle tens of thousands of lawsuits alleging that talc in its iconic Baby Powder and other products caused cancer.

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