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Futures muted as investors await key inflation data

2023-03-31T09:20:36Z

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., March 30, 2023. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

U.S. stock index futures were flat on Friday as investors steered clear of big bets ahead of crucial inflation data, amid receding fears of a banking crisis.

The Commerce Department is expected to release February data on the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index- the Fed’s preferred measure of inflation, at 8:30 am ET (12:30 GMT).

The report is expected to show consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, likely rose 0.3% in February, after jumping 1.8% in January.

Friday will cap a turbulent first quarter for stocks marked by evidence of sticky U.S. inflation, shockwaves from the collapse of two regional U.S. banks and signs of trouble in some European banks as well as a repricing of interest rate expectations from the Fed.

The Nasdaq (.IXIC) is set for its biggest quarterly percentage gain since the end of 2020 given a rotation into major technology and growth stocks from financial stocks during the banking crisis, while the cyclicals-heavy Dow Jones is in the red.

The benchmark S&P 500 (.SPX) is up nearly 6% so far in the first quarter.

Some Fed officials have noted a potential hit to the economy from banking sector problems while recent data, including an uptick in weekly jobless claims has also supported hopes that the central bank is close to the end of its market-punishing rate hikes aimed at cooling demand.

Traders’ bets of a 25 basis point rate hike from the Fed in May stand at 55.2%, with the remaining odds on a no-hike scenario, according to CME Group’s Fedwatch tool.

Consumer sentiment data from the University of Michigan is also due later in the day.

New York Federal Reserve Bank President John Williams and Fed Governor Lisa Cook are also scheduled to speak later on Friday.

At 4:59 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were flat, S&P 500 e-minis were up 1.75 points, or 0.04%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 2 points, or 0.02%.

Virgin Orbit Holdings (VORB.O) dropped 49.6% premarket, a day after the rocket maker said it was laying off about 85% of staff because it had not been able to raise new investment.

Rumble Inc (RUM.O) jumped 14.2% after the video-sharing platform reported a surge in fourth-quarter revenue.

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