Stock Futures climb, all eyes on Fed

December 19, 2018

New York (Dec 19)  U.S. stock index futures climbed 0.8 percent on Wednesday, with investors hoping the Federal Reserve will give them an early Christmas present by signaling fewer rate hikes given the turmoil in financial markets and rising fears of a recession.

The Fed is expected to raise rates for the fourth time this year when its two-day policy meeting ends at 2 p.m. ET (1900 GMT), but the focus will be on whether it still hints at three increases next year as it did in September.

Fed funds futures are pricing in only one more rate rise next year. The latest Reuters poll showed economists expect two rate hikes, with the probability of a U.S. recession in the next two years jumping to 40 percent.

A turbulent couple of months have pushed all three major U.S. indexes more than 10 percent below recent highs, to what is known as correction territory, and that has sparked calls, including from President Donald Trump, for the Fed to hold fire.

“There is hope that a dovish announcement today could go some way to undoing the damage of the last few months,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda in London.

“With the global economy facing lower growth in 2019, including the U.S., inflation in check and U.S. stocks in correction territory, it may not be the best time to be raising rates.”

At 7:01 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis 1YMc1 were up 197 points, or 0.83 percent. S&P 500 e-minis ESc1 were up 21 points, or 0.83 percent and Nasdaq 100 e-minis NQc1 were up 53.5 points, or 0.83 percent.

Adding to worries of a economic slowdown, FedEx Corp (FDX.N), seen as a bellwether for the global economy, slashed its 2019 forecast citing a weakening economy in Europe and slowdown in China. The stock tumbled 6.1 percent in premarket trading and dragged rival United Parcel Service Inc (UPS.N) down 2.9 percent.

Micron Technology Inc (MU.O) fell 7.7 percent after the chipmaker’s quarterly results missed estimates due to weakening consumer and business demand for phones and computers. The results are expected to contribute to weakness in chip stocks at the open.

In a bright spot, Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) rose 1.2 percent after a deal to combine its consumer health business with GlaxoSmithKline Plc (GSK.L).

On the macro front, at 8.30 a.m. ET, data is expected to show the current account deficit for the third quarter widened to $124.3 billion from $101.5 billion in the second quarter.

At 10 a.m. ET, a separate report is likely to show existing home sales for November fell to 5.20 million units from 5.22 million units a month ago.


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