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Futures slip with focus on economic data amid recession worries


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 as investors awaited a fresh batch of economic data, including a report on the labor market, amid worries that rapid interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve could trigger a steep economic downturn.

Wall Street’s main indexes ended lower in the previous session, with the benchmark S&P 500 (.SPX) snapping a four-day winning streak after a fall in U.S. job openings and factory orders added to evidence that the Fed’s aggressive monetary tightening was starting to take a toll on the economy.

Focus will be on the ADP National Employment report before the opening bell on Wednesday. The data is expected to show private payrolls growth likely slowed in March.

Final data on the S&P Global Composite and Services PMI and a report on non-manufacturing activity in March from the Institute for Supply Management will also be on the watch list.

With growing concerns about a worsening economic outlook following a turmoil in the banking sector, market expectations have shifted in favor of the U.S. central bank hitting the brakes on its interest rate hikes.

“Data coming from the manufacturing side of the economy indicates (a) recession. So the equity market is left with weak economic data and a still-hawkish Fed,” said Paul Nolte, senior wealth adviser and market strategist at Murphy & Sylvest.

“As long as the inflation data continues to show some improvement and we start to see unemployment pick up a little bit, the Fed will be on hold in May.”

Traders’ bets of a pause by the Fed in May stood at 53.9%, while odds of a 25-basis point interest rate hike were at 46.1%, according to CME Group’s Fedwatch tool.

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

At 7:05 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 20 points, or 0.06%, S&P 500 e-minis were down 4.75 points, or 0.12%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 15.75 points, or 0.12%.

Among stocks, Nvidia Corp (NVDA.O) fell 1.5% in premarket trading after Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google said the supercomputers it uses to train its artificial intelligence models were faster and more power-efficient than comparable systems from the chipmaker. Alphabet’s shares were up 1.3%.

Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) gained 2.8% after placing its unit in bankruptcy for a 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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