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Stock futures tick higher ahead of key inflation data, Fed meeting

U.S. stock index futures were little changed during overnight trading on Monday after the major averages started the week in the red as Covid omicron fears hit sentiment.

Futures contracts tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 45 points. S&P 500 futures were up 0.11%, while Nasdaq 100 futures were 0.08% higher.

During regular trading, the Dow slid 0.89%, or 320 points, while the S&P 500 dipped 0.9%. The Nasdaq Composite fell 1.39% as investors rotated out of technology stocks with high valuations.

Shares of airlines and cruise line operators declined amid fears that the omicron variant could slow travel.

While equities fell broadly on Monday, growth areas of the market underperformed. The iShares Russell 1000 Growth ETF dipped 1.22%, while the iShares Russell 1,000 Value ETF declined 0.45%.

The market will get fresh inflation data Tuesday when November’s producer price index number is reported. Economists are expecting it to show that prices rose 0.5% for the month, according to estimates from Dow Jones. This would be a slight slowdown from October’s 0.6% increase.

The Federal Reserve also kicks off its two-day meeting on Tuesday. The central bank will release a statement on Wednesday with quarterly projections for the economy, inflation and interest rates. Chairman Jerome Powell will also hold a press conference.

Investors will be watching closely for commentary around if the Federal Reserve plans to accelerate the end of its bond-buying program. At present, the central bank’s asset purchase program will end in June 2022, but several officials have spoken about ending the purchases sooner.

“So far the bond market has given the Fed a pass on inflation — whether it will continue to do so is in doubt,” noted Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at All Star Charts. “The real fireworks coming from the meeting are likely to be around expectations for rate hikes in 2022,” he added.

Despite Monday’s decline for equities, the S&P 500 is roughly 1.6% below its Nov. 22 all-time intraday high. The Dow is 2.5% below its record, while the Nasdaq Composite is about 5% under its high-water mark. The Russell 2000 index is down a sharper 11.3% since its Nov. 8 high.

Looking forward, some strategists, including LPL Financial’s Ryan Detrick, believe there’s upside ahead for equities.

“We believe pent-up demand, gradual improvement in supply chain challenges, solid labor force growth, and productivity gains will all contribute to another year of above-trend economic growth in 2022,” he wrote in a note to clients. “COVID-19-related risks remain and the potential for a policy mistake may be elevated as the economy moves towards normalization, but we think the overall environment will be supportive of business growth and ultimately equity markets,” he added.

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