Stock market today: Wall Street inches down ahead of inflation report closely watched by Fed

Wall Street is poised to open with modest losses Thursday but still on track for a winning February despite a down week at the finish.

Futures for the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average were 0.3% lower before the bell Thursday.

Though earnings season isn’t over, the vast majority of companies have reported quarterly results and the government’s latest inflation update will draw most of the attention on Thursday.

The Commerce Department’s report on consumer spending before markets open contains a measure of inflation that is closely watched by the Federal Reserve. The U.S. central bank has recently paused hiking its key lending rate after raising it to a 22-year high in an effort to corral inflation. Analysts forecast that year-over-year inflation ticked down in January to 2.3% from December’s 2.6%. The Fed’s target is 2%.

Also due Thursday is the Labor Department’s weekly layoffs report.

Processed food maker Hormel jumped nearly 5% in premarket after it breezed past Wall Street’s first-quarter profit targets.

Even though it nearly doubled analysts’ fourth-quarter profit projections, the cloud-computing company Snowflake tumbled more than 22% in off-hours trading after a surprise announcement that CEO Frank Slootman was retiring effective immediately. Slootman will be replaced by Sridhar Ramaswamy.

Artificial intelligence software maker jumped 15.4% after it beat sales forecasts and only lost half as much money per share as Wall Street was expecting. The California tech company’s revenue grew 18% year-over-year, boosted by an even bigger jump in subscriptions.

In midday trading in Europe, Germany’s DAX and Britain’s FTSE 100 each added 0.4%, while the CAC 40 in Paris was down less than 0.1%.

In Asian trading, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index closed 0.1% lower at 39,166.19 after data showed factory output falling in January at the fastest pace since May 2020, although retail sales were stronger than expected.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 0.2% to 16,511.44 and the Shanghai Composite index jumped 1.9% to 3,015.17. The smaller index in Shenzhen surged 3.4% after regulators released new measures to support markets including closer oversight of financial derivatives.

But technology services company Baidu was down 6.6% after reporting its profit fell 48% in the October-December quarter due to higher spending as it strives to keep up with rivals in the artificial intelligence field.

South Korea’s Kospi slipped 0.4% to 2,642.36 while the S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.5% to 7,698.70. Bangkok’s SET lost 0.4% and the Sensex in India was up 0.1%.

Bitcoin was trading at $62,513.00 early Thursday after breaching $64,000 briefly on Wednesday.

In other trading Thursday, U.S. benchmark crude oil gained 11 cents to $78.65 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Brent crude, the international standard, was down 6 cents at $82.09 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar fell to 150.02 Japanese yen from 150.69 yen. The euro ticked down to $.0833 from $1.0834.

On Wednesday, the S&P 500 slipped 0.2%,continuing its quiet and listless run since setting a record last week. The Dow industrials dipped 0.1% and the Nasdaq composite sank 0.5%, a day after pulling within 0.1% of its record set in 2021.

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