NEW YORK: US stocks, which have been choppy so far this week, started trading Wednesday flat on weak data, although the focus remains firmly fixed on the US central bank chief’s speech in Wyoming this week.
New data showed mortgage applications fell again last week, dropping to a 22-year low due to rising borrowing costs, while orders for big-ticket manufactured goods were flat.
But amid the Federal Reserve’s aggressive campaign to cool the highest inflation in four decades with steep interest rate hikes, Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s speech on Friday in Jackson Hole is the week’s main event.
Investors are poised for more hawkish commentary – but hoping for signs that policymakers might be ready to pull back soon.
Briefing.com analyst Patrick J O’Hare said there is a “mountain of expectations building” for the speech, which Powell is due to deliver at the annual central banking symposium.
“Those expectations range from fear of a resolutely hawkish speech to hope of a tempered rate-hike outlook,” he said.
Markets have largely tuned out repeated comments from Fed officials saying rate hikes are not done, but O’Hare said, “Frankly, though, the only view that really matters this week is the one Fed Chair Powell expresses.”
About 20 minutes into the trading day, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was barely changed at 32,917.63.
The broad-based S&P 500 likewise was flat at 4,127.82, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index edged up 0.1 percent to 4,127.82.
Meme stock Bed Bath and Beyond soared more than 26 percent after The Wall Street Journal reported that the home goods chain secured financing to shore up its cash stock.
Traditional department store Nordstrom fell more than 14 percent despite a positive earnings surprise, after lowering its full-year profit guidance.