Wall Street’s main indexes were headed for a subdued open on Wednesday, ahead of the outcome of the Federal Reserve’s rate-setting meeting in which the central bank will seek to balance inflation and banking sector concerns.
Traders have halved the size of the expected interest rate hike to 25 basis points following troubles in the banking sector, with some pointing to the Fed’s aggressive monetary tightening over the past year as one of the reasons for the crisis.
Analysts have said a pause was unlikely as it would indicate the banking turmoil, sparked by the failure of two U.S. regional lenders, had rattled the central bank.
The U.S. central bank’s two-day policy meeting will end at 2 p.m. ET (1800 GMT), with investors keenly awaiting Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s conference at 2:30 p.m. ET to gauge the central bank’s rate-hike trajectory.
“In order to solve the banking problem, you really have to go back down to very low interest rates and I don’t think that’s going to happen,” said Paul Nolte, senior wealth adviser and market strategist at Murphy & Sylvest.
“What you’re going to wind up with is a Fed that will probably be a little bit more focused on inflation and they’re going to deal with the banking situation as it comes up.”
Wall Street’s main indexes notched gains in the past two straight sessions, after the rescue of Credit Suisse as well as measures by central banks to boost liquidity helped soothe some worries about risks to other banks.
However, a scramble by troubled regional U.S. lender First Republic Bank (FRC.N) to secure a capital infusion has kept alive some worries about the banking sector.
Shares of First Republic reversed course to trade 5.0% lower premarket, with a Bloomberg News report on Tuesday stating the bank’s rescue could rely on backing from the U.S. government to facilitate a deal.
Shares of its peers PacWest Bancorp (PACW.O) and Western Alliance Bancorp (WAL.N) also fell 2.1% and 1.1%, respectively, amid choppy trading.
U.S. Treasury yields reversed course to march higher, with the yield on the two-year note, which best reflects interest rate expectations, last at 4.24%.
At 8:20 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 8 points, or 0.02%, S&P 500 e-minis were down 3.25 points, or 0.08%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 28 points, or 0.22%.
Among other stocks, Virgin Orbit Holdings Inc (VORB.O) soared 62.7% after Reuters reported the company is near a deal for a $200 million investment from Texas-based venture capital investor Matthew Brown.
GameStop Corp (GME.N) jumped 47.9% after the company posted a surprise profit for the fourth quarter, helped by lower costs and job cuts.
Nike Inc (NKE.N) fell 1.8% in premarket trade after the sports apparel maker raised its full-year revenue outlook on Tuesday but warned of margin pressures.