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Wall St set to open lower on economic data; Fed verdict on tap


By Shristi Achar A and Shashwat Chauhan

(Reuters) -U.S. stocks were poised for a lower open on Tuesday as stronger-than-expected labor costs signaled persistent inflationary pressures, while caution prevailed ahead of the Federal Reserve’s interest rate decision.

Data showed employment costs for the first quarter rose 1.2%, stronger than estimates of a 1% advance, stoking fears of continued wage inflation and tempering rate-cut hopes.

Money markets are largely expecting the U.S. central bank to stand pat on interest rates this meeting, while pricing in just about 31 basis points (bps) of rate cuts this year, down from about 150 bps estimated at the start of 2024, according to LSEG data.

“This pretty much tells you that the Fed is going to be very reluctant to reduce short-term interest rates in 2024 and that’s had the predictable impact on the stock market,” said Hugh Johnson, chief economist at Hugh Johnson Economics.

“It doesn’t really take interest rate reductions off the table, but it does mean that this number is certainly not going to help.”

The data comes ahead of the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) two-day meeting later in the day, with markets focused on the interest rate verdict and Chair Jerome Powell’s remarks.

On the earnings front, GE HealthCare (NASDAQ:GEHC) lost 8.6% in premarket trading after the medical equipment firm missed estimates for first-quarter revenue, while McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD) fell 1.5% as it missed profit estimates for the first time in two years.

U.S. industrial conglomerate 3M gained 6.1% after posting a 21% rise in quarterly profit.

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Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) added 6.2% after the drugmaker raised its full-year profit forecast, betting on surging demand for its weight-loss treatment Zepbound and type 2 diabetes drug Mounjaro.

U.S. equities have had a rough April as persistent inflationary pressures sharply pulled back bets on interest rate cut hopes, while heightened tensions in the Middle East and earnings updates also added to the volatility.

All three U.S. stock indexes are poised to record their first monthly loss in six.

At 8:45 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 155 points, or 0.4%, S&P 500 e-minis were down 20.75 points, or 0.4%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 88.25 points, or 0.49%.

Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) shares were down 3.1%, following a 15% surge in the previous session after a report that CEO Elon Musk had dismissed two senior executives and plans to lay off hundreds more employees.

Coursera shed 16.7% after the online learning platform forecast full-year revenue below market estimates.

Mosaic added 3.7% after the fertilizer maker said Saudi Arabia’s flagship mining firm Ma’aden would acquire the U.S.-based company’s stake in a phosphate production joint venture by issuing shares worth about $1.5 billion.

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