Wall Street set to open lower as rate hike timing regains focus

August 19, 2016 08:30 AM

Wall Street looked set to open lower on Friday after a week of choppy trading as the corporate earnings season winds down and investors again focus on the timing of the Federal Reserve's next interest rate hike. Investors were also cagey ahead of next week's annual meeting of central bankers from around the world in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, in which Fed Chair Janet Yellen is likely to cement expectations for a slow pace of rate increases.

Recent hawkish comments from two Fed officials have clashed with the central bank's position that more data is needed before interest rates can be raised, according to the minutes of the Fed's July meeting released this week.

"There is a bit on uncertainty over the Fed's decision and Yellen's speech next week is motivating investors to take some money off the table," said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at First Standard Financial in New York.

"It is typical to expect a retreat at these levels with volumes remaining muted."

Traders are pricing in a 43.1% chance of a rate hike this December, according to CME Group's FedWatch Tool.

S&P 500 e-minis were down 6 points, or 0.27%, with 136,132 contracts traded at 8:30 a.m. ET (1230 GMT). Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 13.5 points, or 0.28%, on volume of 19,647 contracts. Dow e-minis were down 50 points, or 0.27%, with 19,164 contracts changing hands.

The benchmark S&P 500 index is up 7% this year. Its recent run to record highs has been partly supported by expectations that the Fed will continue to keep rates low, as well as some upbeat earnings and economic news.

The S&P 500 has ended higher for six out of the last eight weeks. The Nasdaq is struggling to hold on to its weekly gains, putting into doubt if the index can end higher for the eight straight week.

Applied Materials was up 5.2% at $29.13 in premarket trading after the chip equipment maker's current-quarter revenue and profit forecasts topped analysts' estimates.

Estee Lauder  was down 3.3% at $92.50 as the cosmetics maker's quarterly sales rose less than expected. Gap was off 2.4% at $25.30 after its full-year profit outlook missed expectations. Deere was up 4.3% at $80.25 after the farming machinery maker raised its full-year profit outlook.


About the Author

Tanya Agrawal, Reuters