Stock Market Today: Stocks edge lower with Fed inflation gauge on deck

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U.S. equity futures nudged lower Thursday, but remain on pace for a fourth consecutive monthly gain, as investors braced for the biggest economic data release of the year amid questions about the Federal Reserve’s near-term interest rate path.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis will publish its formal reading of January inflation prior to the start of trading, with investors focused firmly on the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge, the core PCE Price Index, which is expected to tick modestly higher from December levels. 

A bigger-than-expected gain could trigger changes to both the Fed’s current rate projections, which call for around three quarter-point reductions this year, as well as the market’s assumptions that cuts will begin at the central bank’s fourth meeting of the year in June.

A downtick in press pressure, however, could suggest that inflation is now moving more convincingly to the Fed’s preferred 2% target, stoking both a pullback in Treasury bond yields and a likely jump in broader stock prices.

Benchmark 10-year Treasury note yields were trading modestly higher ahead of the data release at 4.307% while 2-year notes, the most sensitive to interest-rate changes, were marked at 4.693%.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of six global currencies, was marked 0.01% higher at 103.981.

On Wall Street, stocks are set for a modestly weaker open, but much of today’s action will be dictated by both the January PCE reading and weekly jobless-claims data, both of which are set for release at 8:30 am Eastern Time.

Among individual stocks, Snowflake  (SNOW)  shares wee the most active in premarket trading, plunging more than 23% after the cloud-focused data-analytics group issued a softer-than-expected sales forecast, offsetting a solid fourth-quarter-earnings report.

A weaker sales guide also clipped shares of Salesforce  (CRM) , which were last marked 1.9% lower at $294.06, as the customer-relations-management-software group signaled a slowdown in corporate spending.

WW International  (WW)  shares were also on the move, falling nearly 25% after superstar endorser Oprah Winfrey said she was leaving the board of the consumer health group. 

In broader markets, futures contracts tied to the S&P 500, which is up 4.8% on the month and just under 6.5% for the year, are priced for an 11 point pullback at the start of trading.

Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average, meanwhile, suggest a 130 point opening-bell decline while those linked to the Nasdaq suggest a 40 point pullback.

In Europe, the regionwide Stoxx 600 was marked 0.17% in Frankfurt, while Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.25% in London, with both markets keenly eyeing today’s inflation report prior to the close of trading.

Overnight in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 closed 0.11% lower at 39,166.19. Solid gains for stocks in China helped the MSCI ex-Japan index rise 0.25% into the close of trading.

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