Stock Market Today: Stocks Mixed As Bond Yields Climb On Rate Bets; Retail Sales Data On Deck

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U.S. equity futures traded mixed Thursday, while the dollar collected gains against its global peers, as investors continue to closely-track interest rate markets heading into next week’s Fed meeting.

Markets were given a modest pre-market boost, as well, after the White House brokered an an agreement with union representatives and railway workers to prevent a crippling strike slated to begin later this week.

The Biden Administration had been facing a midnight Friday deadline to broker an agreement between railway operators and unions representing around 60,000 members amid a long-running dispute over working conditions, wages and employee safety

Stocks are still deeply in the red when compared to Monday’s closing levels, however, following the biggest sell-off in two years on Tuesday, triggered by a faster-than-expected reading for August inflation and a corresponding surge in rate hike expectations from the Federal Reserve.

The odds of an unprecedented 100 basis point move, which would be the biggest since 1984, are holding firm at around 26%, based on data reflected in the CME Group’s FedWatch, with bets on follow-on hikes likely to lift the Fed Funds rate to between 4.25% and 4.5% by the end of February.

The demand component of the inflation surge will be in focus Thursday with the publication of August retail sales data at 8:30 am Eastern time.

Analysts expect overall retail sales to decline by around 0.1% from their July levels, but that will be based on total value and represent the significant month-on-month decline in gas prices. 

If sales show gains on a volume basis, however, investors will find comfort in the fact that consumers are using the cash saved from lower pump prices to spend across different sectors of the economy.

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Bond markets, in the meantime, continue to flash concerned recession warnings, with the difference between 2-year note yields — which are trading at the highest levels since 2007 — now some 38 basis points higher than the yield on 10-year notes.

The dollar index, meanwhile, was marked 0.03% higher in the overnight session at 109.662, while the euro held below parity to 0.9992.

The currency and bond market moves have set a backdrop that has stocks struggling to find traction in a market where good economic news only increases the chances of deeper rate hikes, while inflation data itself isn’t slowing fast enough to allow for bets on a pause in the Fed’s tightening cycle.

Still, Europe stocks were marked 0.08% higher in mid-day Frankfurt trading, following on from a 0.2% bump for the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo and a 0.16% dip the region-wide MSCI ex-Japan index.

On Wall Street, futures contracts tied to the S&P 500 are indicating a modest 3 point opening bell dip, while those linked to the Dow Jones Industrial Average are priced for a 22 point advance. Futures tied to the tech-focused Nasdaq are indicating a 4 point move to the downside.

Railway shares were moving firmly higher following the Biden-brokered deal with union members, with CSX Corp  (CSX)  shares rising 3.8% and Union Pacific  (UNP)  shares jumping 4% to $226.50 each. Norfolk Southern  (NSC)  gained 1.5%.

Walt Disney  (DIS)  shares edged 0.25% higher following an upbeat address from CEO Bob Chapek at a tech and media sector conference late Wednesday in San Francisco. 

In other markets, an historic ‘merge’ of two blockchain networks, one of which underpins the world’s second-largest cryptocurrency, was completed last night, creating what could be a significant challenge to bitcoin’s dominance in the digital token market.

Ether tokens were last seen 3% lower on the session and changing hands at $1,590.92 each.

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