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Stock futures are slightly higher ahead of key inflation report

Stock futures were little changed early Wednesday as investors awaited an important inflation report expected to show prices rising at the fastest pace in nearly 40 years.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average ticked up 66 points. S&P 500 futures gained 0.2%, and Nasdaq 100 futures rose about 0.3%.

The moves come as investor await the December reading for the consumer price index, a gauge of prices across a broad spectrum of goods. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones expect CPI to have risen 7% from a year ago, the most since the summer of 1982, and 0.4% from November. Excluding food and energy, core CPI is projected to have increased 5.4% and 0.5% respectively.

However, some economists think inflation could be showing signs of peaking, so the report will be looked at closely for the longer-term trend.

Though CPI is not the Federal Reserve’s primary inflation gauge, policymakers are watching a variety of measures as they embark on the first stages to tightening the most accommodative policy measures in the central bank’s history.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell told Senate lawmakers Tuesday that he expects interest rate increases this year along with the end of the monthly bond-buying program in March and a reduction in asset holdings. Powell said the moves likely will be needed to control inflation at a time when the economy has recovered substantially from the pandemic shock.

“The anxiety relating to the Fed’s recent hawkish tilt and the outlook for higher rates seems to have calmed a tad (at least for now), leaving investors fishing for opportunities in pockets that saw the deepest cuts in recent weeks,” Chris Hussey, a managing director at Goldman Sachs said in a note.

In individual stocks, Dish Network jumped 7.4% in premarket trading following news that the company is again in merger talks with DirectTV, according to sources who spoke with the New York Post. Reopening stocks also gained, with Norwegian Cruise Lines up 1.9% and Hilton Worldwide Holdings rising 1.2%.

On the downside, Biogen shares tumbled nearly 10% following news that Medicare will only cover the cost for the company’s Alzheimer’s drug Aduhelm for patients with early-stage symptoms who are enrolled in clinical trials.

The market moves come a day after a rally on Wall Street as investors bought the dip following a five-day sell-off in the S&P 500. On Tuesday, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite gaining more than 1% for a second straight day of gains. The S&P 500 rose 0.9%, snapping a five-day slide, while the blue-chip Dow added 180 points.

Technology shares have suffered a steep sell-off in the new year after the Federal Reserve signaled a faster-than-expected tightening schedule. Many bet that the market could see the first interest-rate hike as soon as March.

Bond yields, which spiked to start 2022, stabilized on Tuesday with the10-year Treasury yield slipping to 1.76% after topping the 1.8% level earlier in the week.

“I’m not sure the inflation data tomorrow is going to put investors’ minds at ease, with CPI seen hitting a multi-decade high above 7%,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda. “A higher reading could spook investors once again just as equity markets appear to be stabilizing.”

Meanwhile, big banks will kick off the fourth-quarter earnings season on Friday. JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Wells Fargo are slated to release quarterly results before the bell.

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