Stock market news live updates: Stocks waver ahead of Powell’s speech

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U.S. stocks edged higher at Wednesday’s session open before giving up gains, continuing a sluggish start to the week as investors digested new economic data and awaited comments from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell.

The S&P 500 (^GSPC) slipped by 0.3% in early trading, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) was down by 0.6%. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC) ticked up by 0.2%.

Stocks finished lower on Tuesday, even as concerns regarding China’s strict zero-COVID policy abated. U.S.-listed Chinese stocks rose for the third day, adding to record rally this month as Beijing announced plans to accelerate vaccination of China’s elderly on Tuesday, spurring optimism among investors about a path forward for easing COVID restrictions amid nationwide protests.

The U.S. dollar was weaker early Wednesday, while the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note slipped to 3.733% from 3.755% on Tuesday. In oil markets, the global benchmark Brent crude (BZ=F) climbed 2.3% to $82.90 a barrel. WTI crude oil (CL=F) rose 2.6% on Wednesday to $80.25 a barrel.

For investors, though, all eyes will be on the Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s speech on Wednesday afternoon at the Brookings Institution, the last speech before the Fed’s next rate setting meeting in mid-December. But “investors are oscillating between bracing for a repeat of Jackson Hole and seeing Powell reiterate the views from other recent Fedspeak,” wrote Andrew Tyler, head of US Market Intelligence at J.P. Morgan.

As the Fed strives to meet its dual mandate of price stability and maximum sustained employment, it is widely expected that Powell will signal that the Fed is on track to ease up slightly on its pace of monetary policy tightening, likely to step down to a 50-basis-points increase.

This speech also comes less than two weeks before the release of November’s consumer price data.

“All eyes are going to continue to be on inflation at this point,” Providence Financial & Insurance Services President Anthony Saccaro told Yahoo Finance Live on Tuesday.

Ahead of Powell’s schedule speech on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary Janet Yellen weighed in on the Fed’s competency as an organization saying they are “qualified people trying to make their best judgement.”

Early in the day, investors studied another wave of macroeconomic data. The ADP employment report showed that private companies added 127,000 jobs for November, below expectations of about 200,000, in further signals of a cooling labor market.

“Turning points can be hard to capture in the labor market, but our data suggest that Federal Reserve tightening is having an impact on job creation and pay gains,” Nela Richardson, chief economist at ADP, said in a statement. “In addition, companies are no longer in hyper-replacement mode. Fewer people are quitting and the post-pandemic recovery is stabilizing.”

Also on the data front:

  • US GDP for the 2022 third quarter increased at a 2.9% annual rate, according to a government estimate. The report also found that the Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE) index, which measures the price of consumer goods and services, increased 4.3% in the quarter, an upward revision of 0.1 percentage point. Excluding food and energy prices, the PCE price index increased 4.6%, also revised up 0.1 percentage point.

  • US job openings fell to 10.33 million in October, down 10.68 from the prior month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) survey. Economists surveyed by Bloomberg expected job openings to dip to 10.25 million on the month.

  • Signed contracts to buy existing homes in the U.S. fell 4.6% in October, the fifth consecutive decline as higher rates wane on demand, data from the National Association of Realtors showed Wednesday.

  • The Chicago Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) fell to 37.2, below expectations of 47.0, the lowest reading since reading since June 2020.

Finally, the Fed’s Beige Book, a survey of the Fed’s regional banks, will be released Wednesday afternoon.

On the earnings front, Salesforce (CRM), Five Below (FIVE), Okta, Inc. (OKTA), Snowflake (SNOW), and Victoria’s Secret (VSCO) are set to report earnings on Wednesday.

Shares of CrowdStrike Holdings, Inc. (CRWD) sank more than 18% after the cybersecurity company’s forecasted quarter revenue came in short of analyst expectations as clients cut back on spending and delayed purchases due to macroeconomic headwinds. DoorDash (DASH) is laying off about 1,250 people in an effort to cut expenses, according to a report from Bloomberg, citing a memo from it CEO Tony Xu.

Dani Romero is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @daniromerotv

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