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Wall Street set for lower open ahead of Powell speech


U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell addresses reporters after the Fed raised its target interest rate by a quarter of a percentage point, during a news conference at the Federal Reserve Building in Washington, U.S., February 1, 2023. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

U.S. stock indexes were set to open lower on Tuesday as investors looked ahead to Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s speech, which will be parsed for further clues on how long the central bank will keep interest rates higher.

Powell’s comments, due at 12:40 p.m. EST (1740 GMT) before the Economic Club of Washington, will be closely monitored after a strong jobs report last week stymied rising hopes of less aggressive monetary policy.

“Markets are still trying to ascertain last Friday’s employment data on the future direction of the Fed,” Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research, said.

“He (Powell) is expected to pretty much say what he did, that the market might continue to be underestimating what the Fed is going to be doing, even though he did say that they might be raising rates a couple more times.”

Traders are speculating that the central bank would push the benchmark rate to 5.1% in June, levels that officials have backed vociferously.

Heavyweight Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) added 1.4% in premarket trading. It is expected to reveal its potential investment in chatbot sensation ChatGPT later in the day.

U.S. listed shares of Baidu Inc soared 11.7% as the Chinese search engine said it would conclude the testing of its ChatGPT-style project ‘Ernie Bot’ in March.

Boeing Inc (BA.N) climbed 0.5% after the U.S. planemaker confirmed on Monday that it expects to cut about 2,000 white-collar jobs through attrition and layoffs.

Expectations of high rates for a protracted period dragged Wall Street’s main indexes down on Monday. But, all three major averages are in the black for 2023, with the Nasdaq (.IXIC) adding 13.6%, led by a revival in battered mega-cap growth stocks.

So far, 272 companies on the S&P 500 have reported quarterly earnings, with 69.1% of them beating expectations, according to Refinitiv. Still, analysts expect fourth-quarter earnings to decline 3.1%.

At 8:54 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 108 points, or 0.32%, S&P 500 e-minis were down 7.25 points, or 0.18%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 1.5 points, or 0.01%.

DuPont (DD.N) reversed earlier declines to rise 1.0%, on a higher-than-expected quarterly profit supported by higher pricing for its products.

Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY.O) plunged 37.7% premarket as the embattled home-goods retailer seeks a $1 billion raise in a last-ditch effort to avoid bankruptcy.

Later into the day, U.S. President Joe Biden will deliver the annual State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, his first since the Republican party narrowly took control of the House of Representatives after November’s mid-term elections.