Wall Street quiet ahead of US inflation data, earnings

Wall Street was somewhat subdued Tuesday ahead of several reports this week that could help the Federal Reserve determine whether its interest rate increases have further tempered four-decade high inflation.

Futures for the S&P 500 Dow Jones Industrial Average were each up less than 0.1% before the bell Tuesday.

Recent reports on the U.S. economy have reinforced expectations the Federal Reserve may tap the brakes again on business activity by raising interest rates.

On Wednesday, the U.S. government will release its latest monthly update on prices across the economy at the consumer level. Economists expect it to show inflation slowed last month but remains well above the Fed’s target.

Thursday will bring the government’s report on wholesale inflation, while a retail sales report is due Friday.

Monday was the first U.S. trading day after the release of data showing a stronger than expected jobs market in March, which might keep inflation higher, perhaps leading the Fed to hike interest rates again at its next meeting.

The Fed has raised interest rates at a furious pace over the last year in hopes of undercutting high inflation. Higher rates can do that, but only by bluntly slowing the entire economy in one fell swoop. That raises the risk of a recession in the future and drags down prices for stocks, bonds and other investments.

The Fed has jacked up rates at every one of its meetings over the past year, forcing them up from near zero at the start of 2022.

In Japan, the new central bank governor indicated late Monday that he expects to keep the country’s ultra-low interest rate policy in place without drastic changes.

Bank of Japan Gov. Kazuo Ueda did say there may be a need for a long-term review of the policy, which is aimed at fostering stronger economic growth by keeping inflation near a target of 2%.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index gained 1.1% to 27,923.37.

South Korea’s Kospi advanced 1.4%, to 2,547.86. The Bank of Korea left its policy rate unchanged at 3.5% for a second straight meeting, one of many regional banks that are now slowing or reversing rate increases due to signs of weakness in the global economy.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.8% to 20,485.24, while the Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 climbed 1.3% to 7,309.90. In Mumbai, the Sensex gained 0.3% to 60,026.46.

The Shanghai Composite index lost 0.1% to 3,313.57.

In Europe at midday, London’s FTSE 100 rose 0.3%, the CAC 40 in Paris added 0.8% and the DAX in Germany gained 0.3%.

On Monday, the S&P 500 edged 0.1% higher. Big tech stocks fell more than the rest of the market, which helped pull the Nasdaq composite down less than 0.1%. The Dow industrials rose 0.3%.

This week brings another earnings reporting season. Delta Air Lines, JPMorgan Chase and UnitedHealth Group will be among the first S&P 500 companies to tell investors how much profit they made during the first three months of the year.

Expectations are low, and analysts are forecasting the sharpest drop in earnings per share for S&P 500 companies since the pandemic pummeled the economy in the spring of 2020.

In other trading Tuesday, U.S. benchmark crude lost 26 cents to $79.48 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the international pricing standard, fell 35 cents to $83.83 per barrel.

The dollar slipped to 133.19 Japanese yen from 133.59 yen. The euro rose to $1.0909 from $1.0864.

Kurtenbach reported from Bangkok; Ott reported from Silver Spring, Maryland.

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