Futures rise as signs of softening inflation bolster rate cut hopes

(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures rose on Monday after the latest inflation print showed moderating consumer prices, bolstering hopes of an early interest rate cut by the Federal Reserve.

The Commerce Department’s data on Friday showed the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index – the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge – rose 0.3% in February, compared with the estimates of a 0.4% increase, according to economists polled by Reuters.

The report bolstered rate-cut bets, with money markets pricing in a 66% chance of at least a 25 basis point cut in June, compared with 55% a day before the data was released, according to the CME Group’s FedWatch tool.

Raising further hopes, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said on Friday he was expecting interest rates in the future to be lower than they were now, but to likely remain above pandemic levels.

“If activity holds up, the Fed might deliver three rate cuts this year. But a further softening in labor markets has us expecting five rate cuts this year,” Citigroup analysts wrote in a note.

Market participants, however, expect the central bank to stand pat on rates at the upcoming policy meeting in May.

Growth stocks, which stand to benefit from lower interest rates, rose in premarket trading, with Microsoft, Nvidia and Tesla up between 0.6% and 1.1%.

That indicates a solid start to the second quarter, after the benchmark S&P 500 rose 10.16% in the first three months of the year, its biggest gain since 2019. The blue-chip Dow is less than 1% away from breaching the 40,000 level for the first time.

The gains on Wall Street have been powered by optimism around artificial intelligence, robust earnings and hopes of a soft landing – where inflation moderates without causing an economic slowdown.

On the data front, the S&P Global’s final manufacturing PMI report is expected at 9:45 a.m. ET and the ISM manufacturing PMI report is due at 10:00 a.m. ET.

At 5:37 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 111 points, or 0.28%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 17.75 points, or 0.33%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 88.75 points, or 0.48%.

Among early movers, AT&T fell 1.6% in premarket trading after the wireless carrier said it was investigating a data leak that could have impacted nearly 73 million current and former accounts.

Spirit Airlines gained 2.1% after the budget carrier said it would get a monthly credit from International Aero Engines through the end of 2024 as compensation for not being able to operate its jets with engine issues.

(Reporting by Shristi Achar A in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva)

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