U.S. stock futures edged down ahead of a slew of economic data releases that are expected to spur discussion among investors about the Federal Reserve’s response to the strengthening economic recovery.
Futures tied to the S&P 500 slipped 0.2%, suggesting a reversal of Wednesday’s tepid gains. Nasdaq-100 futures declined 0.4%, pointing to moderate losses for technology stocks after the opening bell.
Investors will keep a close eye on so-called meme stocks popular with online traders. Shares in AMC Entertainment and GameStop were down around 3% in off-hours trading after Wednesday’s fresh bout of trading enthusiasm.
Broader stock indexes have wavered this week as concerns about runaway inflation dwindled and Fed officials signaled that discussions about adjusting the pace of asset purchases may commence in the near future. Investors are closely monitoring indicators of economic activity to try to understand when monetary stimulus could begin to be scaled back.
“We’re trying to understand if there is this bigger-than-life moment for the U.S. economy. It will question what the Fed should do,” said Ludovic Subran, chief economist at Allianz. “The equity market has been in a bit of a wait-and see-mode, waiting for this confirmation.”
Orders for durable goods in the U.S. for April are scheduled to be released at 8:30 a.m. ET and are predicted to rise, reflecting strong demand for cars, appliances and other factory goods.
The latest data on initial jobless claims, a proxy for layoffs, will be released at the same time. Economists project another drop to a new pandemic low, as the labor market continues to improve. A revision to first-quarter U.S. gross domestic product is slated to go out at 8:30 a.m. as well.
The spurt of growth spurred by the economy reopening may be nearing its peak, said Andrew Cole, a multiasset fund manager at Pictet Asset Management. “We’ll likely see a deceleration in the growth rate from here and that’s always an uncomfortable time for markets.”
Earnings season is winding down, with a few companies still left to report. Dollar General and Best Buy are scheduled to post earnings before the opening bell, while Salesforce.com and Costco are expected to release their results after markets close.
In bond markets, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note ticked up to 1.577% from 1.572% Wednesday.
Overseas, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 was relatively flat, edging down less than 0.1%. Royal Dutch Shell retreated 1.2% a day after a Dutch court ruled that the oil company was partially responsible for climate change, and ordered it to speed up its carbon-reduction plans.
Shares of Airbus climbed 6.2% after it told its suppliers to prepare for a ramp-up in plane production.
In Asia, major benchmarks were mixed. The Shanghai Composite Index added 0.4% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index declined 0.2%.
Bitcoin slid 1.2%, compared with Wednesday’s level at 5 p.m., trading around $38,250, after rising above $40,000 the previous day. The cryptocurrency is down close to 40% from its mid-April high.
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