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Stock futures are flat as investors await Federal Reserve update

U.S. stock index futures were little changed during overnight trading on Tuesday, ahead of the Federal Reserve’s update on Wednesday.

Futures contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average were flat. S&P 500 futures were also flat, while Nasdaq 100 futures advanced 0.1%.

Stocks pulled back from record levels during Tuesday’s trading session, with the S&P 500 closing 0.2% lower after hitting an all-time high earlier in the day. The Dow slid nearly 100 points and the Nasdaq Composite dipped 0.7% amid weakness in shares of Big Tech.

The Federal Reserve kicked off its two-day meeting on Tuesday. The central bank is not expected to make any policy moves, but it could signal that it’s beginning to think about easing its bond-buying policy. The Fed will also release new forecasts on Wednesday, which could indicate a possible first rate hike penciled in for 2023. Previously, Fed officials hadn’t come to a consensus for a rate hike through 2023.

The meeting comes as inflation heats up, with producer prices rising at their fastest annual rate in nearly 11 years during May. This has prompted some, including Paul Tudor Jones, to call for the central bank to re-think its easy monetary policy.

“On a one-year basis, inflation is indeed high,” said Brad McMillan, chief investment officer at Commonwealth Financial Network. “On a two-year basis, which captures the downturn and the upturn, inflation is still in the normal range over the past decade. The one-year numbers are simply misleading … When you dig in, on time frame and components, inflation is not nearly as bad as the headline numbers suggest,” he added. McMillan said he expects the Fed to stay the course and keep policy simulative.

The central bank has been buying $120 billion worth of bonds each month as the economy continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Minutes from the central bank’s last meeting showed that some Fed officials said it could be appropriate to start discussing adjustments to the bond-buying program should the economy continue to recover. Economists predict that while some of these discussions could begin, concrete details will not be revealed until later this year.

“The key component to watch at Wednesday’s press conference is an acknowledgement by Fed Chair [Jerome] Powell that the tapering discussion is underway and that officials are pondering a timeframe as to when they will communicate to the markets that the tapering train is scheduled to depart the station,” noted Danielle DiMartino Booth, CEO and chief strategist at Quill Intelligence. “Market participants anticipate a loud and clear tapering signal will arrive at August’s Jackson Hole meeting.”

Wells Fargo Investment Institute released its 2021 midyear outlook on Tuesday, saying it sees an intensified economic recovery into 2022 thanks to the continued vaccine rollout, among other things. Inflation, tax and interest rates are the firm’s chief concerns over the next 18 months, but the firm doesn’t see them derailing the rally.

“They appear to us very unlikely to douse the economic recovery or to alter our investment preferences for equities over fixed income and for cyclical equity sectors over defensive and growth-oriented sectors,” the firm said.

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