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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Wall St retreats as investors brace for inflation data

Wall Street’s main indexes slipped on Wednesday ahead of an inflation reading later in the week that would influence expectations about when the U.S. Federal Reserve will start cutting interest rates.

The personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge due on Thursday, is likely to show prices rose on a monthly basis in January.

Stocks have struggled in the days leading up to the report after a scorching rally in the previous week that was fueled by euphoria around the potential for artificial intelligence (AI).

“We’re in a little bit of a digestion period where people are willing to take some profits,” said Dennis Dick, a trader at Triple D Trading.

“If we start to see inflation start to take higher, that could put the Fed’s rate cuts further down the road, and the market is not going to like that at all.”

Evidence of sticky inflation, a robust U.S. economy and pushback from some Fed officials have already led traders to delay bets of the first interest rate cut to June from March.

Data on Wednesday confirmed the U.S. economy grew at a solid clip in the fourth quarter amid strong consumer spending but it appears to have lost some speed early in the new year.

Jobless claims and manufacturing activity data are due in the coming days and the readings will be parsed for further clues on the strength of the economy and the outlook for interest rates.

Investor focus was also on comments from Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic and New York Fed chief John Williams expected later in the day.

At 11:25 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI), opens new tab was down 73.81 points, or 0.19%, at 38,898.60, the S&P 500 (.SPX), opens new tab was down 4.27 points, or 0.08%, at 5,073.91, and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC), opens new tab was down 47.64 points, or 0.30%, at 15,987.66.

Six of the 11 major S&P 500 sub-indexes were in the red, with communication services (.SPLRCL), opens new tab leading declines as Alphabet (GOOGL.O), opens new tab dropped 1.9%.

UnitedHealth (UNH.N), opens new tab was the top decliner on the S&P 500, down 4.8% after a report on Tuesday said the U.S. Department of Justice has launched an antitrust investigation into the healthcare conglomerate.

Semiconductor equipment supplier Applied Materials (AMAT.O), opens new tab slid 2.4% following a subpoena from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in February.

Beyond Meat (BYND.O), opens new tab surged 45.9% as plant-based meat maker placed its bets on price hikes and steep cost cuts to turn around its battered margins, triggering a squeeze on its highly shorted shares.

E-commerce platform eBay (EBAY.O), opens new tab added 8.5% as quarterly results beat expectations, while Bumble (BMBL.O), opens new tab fell 11.2% on a disappointing first-quarter revenue forecast.

Shares of major cryptocurrency firms Coinbase Global (COIN.O), opens new tab and Marathon Digital (MARA.O), opens new tab climbed 4.6% and 7.2% respectively as bitcoin surged past $61,000.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.07-to-1 ratio on the NYSE. Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.33-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 56 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 87 new highs and 54 new lows.

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