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US futures point to gains with earnings, jobs data on tap

NEW YORK (AP) – Markets in the United States (US) moved into positive territory before yesterday’s opening bell ahead of more corporate earnings releases and weekly employment data.

Futures for the benchmark S&P 500 index and the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.2 per cent hours before the opening bell, bouncing back from overnight losses.

US markets fell Wednesday on mixed earnings reports and the release of notes from the Federal Reserve’s last meeting, where officials said inflation remains too hot despite aggressive rate hikes, suggesting support for more increases.

Even amid signs that US economic growth is weakening, Fed board members during a two-day meeting late last month said inflation is “unacceptably high” and saw “little evidence” that those pressures are subsiding.

Investors worry aggressive rate hikes imposed by the Fed and central banks in Europe and Asia this year to tame inflation that is running at multi-decade highs might derail global economic growth.

The Fed notes raised “the prospects of further tightening”, while some investors see possible “excessive tightening dragging growth”, Venkateswaran Lavanya of Mizuho Bank said in a report.

The Fed notes made clear the board plans to keep raising rates but gave no indication when or by how much.

A currency trader watches monitors near screens showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index. PHOTO: AP

The US central bank has hiked its benchmark lending rate twice this year by 0.75 percentage points, triple its usual margin. Forecasters say a hike of the same size is possible at its September meeting, though the likelihood has declined as data show the economy weakening.

Yesterday, the government reports weekly unemployment claims, which serve as a proxy for layoffs. The US job market has shown remarkable resiliency in the face of four-decade high inflation and two straight quarters of economic contraction.

In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.5 per cent to 3,277.54 and the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo fell one per cent to 28,942.14. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong sank 0.8 per cent to 19,763.91.

Doubts are growing on Wall Street about growth in China, with analysts citing the global economy and falling demand, as well as the nation’s ongoing struggle with COVID-19.

Goldman Sachs cut its growth expectations for the year from 3.3 per cent, to three per cent.

Nomura, which had projected 3.3 per cent growth, slashed its projection to 2.8 per cent.

Beijing has a 5.5 per cent growth target for 2022 but signaled this summer that it may fall short of that.

China’s economy grew by just 2.5 per cent in the first half of 2022, less than half what the nation’s central bank had projected.

Major retailers have posted a mixed bag of quarterly earnings results this week.

Yesterday, the department store Kohl’s and the high-end retailer Tapestry, the parent company of Coach and Kate Spade, issued outlooks for the year that fell short of projections from industry analysts. Kohl’s fell more than eight per cent and Tapestry slipped about one per cent in premarket trading.

Target fell 2.7 per cent on Wednesday after reporting a nearly 90 per cent plunge in second quarter profits. Walmart put up fairly strong earnings the previous day, but evidence of changing consumer behaviour due to high inflation was clear.

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