Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Stock futures ticked higher Tuesday morning as investors looked ahead to key inflation data that may signal what the Federal Reserve will do at its March meeting.
Stocks are coming off a positive session, with all three major indexes ending Monday’s session up more than 1%. That marked a turn from last week, when the Nasdaq Composite and S&P 500 posted their worst weekly performances since December.
Investors were largely positioning ahead of the consumer price index reading for January set to be released at 8:30 a.m. ET Tuesday. The CPI is a gauge of inflation that tracks changes in prices across a broad basket of items.
Economists polled by Dow Jones expect CPI rose 0.4% from December, and they predict the index climbed 6.2% compared to the prior year. Core CPI, which excludes food and energy, is expected to rise 0.3% from the prior month and 5.5% compared with the same month a year ago.
“All eyes are laser-focused on Tuesday’s CPI report to gauge the market’s likely flight course for the balance of Q1 and beyond,” said Greg Bassuk, CEO at AXS Investments.
CPI declined 0.1% in December on a monthly basis, its biggest drop since 2020. It was a welcome decrease for investors looking for signs that inflation was starting to cool, hoping the Federal Reserve would consider pausing its interest rate hikes.
Investors will be watching Tuesday’s reading for the same signs, Bassuk said. Market observers expect the S&P 500 could swing in either direction following the release of the data.
“Tuesday’s CPI report, if fierier than expected, could jolt investors and the equity markets, which have been on a growth tear in 2023, sparked by hopes of declining inflation and a more dovish Fed policy on interest rates,” he said. “A reverse course from the recent months of disinflation would reignite investor concerns that high inflation and Fed rate hikes will define the markets in 2023 as they did last year.”