Stock futures traded sideways Wednesday evening to hold near record levels, as traders anxiously awaited the start of a key Federal Reserve event on Thursday.
Contracts on the S&P 500 opened little changed after the index reached a new record level during the regular trading day and logged a fifth consecutive session of gains. The Nasdaq had also reached a fresh record high.
Shares of Dow component Salesforce.com (CRM) edged higher in late trading after the software company boosted its full-year revenue forecast and topped second-quarter earnings estimates, with the company getting a boost from remote workers still turning in droves to Salesforce products. Shares of beauty retailer Ulta (UTLA) also gained after the company posted quarterly sales growth of 60%, bringing revenue above pre-pandemic levels.
Stocks across the board have marched higher over the past several sessions as traders continued to digest the latest wave of positive corporate earnings results and looked past lingering concerns around the Delta variant.
Investors have also been awaiting the start of the Federal Reserve’s Jackson Hole symposium on Thursday, which is being held as a virtual event due to the virus. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell is set to give a closely watched speech on the economic outlook on Friday, which will divulge more of his and the central bank’s thinking about the timing and scope of tapering the Fed’s pandemic-era asset purchase program.
According to a number of pundits, Powell will likely keep his messaging in line with recent other public remarks, signaling the economy has progressed toward the central bank’s goals albeit while still remaining a ways off from fully reaching the thresholds necessary to begin tapering.
“We don’t think the Fed is going to do anything suddenly, and we really don’t think Chairman Powell is going to indicate that they’re ready to move policy any time soon,” Wells Fargo Senior Macro Strategist Zach Griffiths told Yahoo Finance. “If you look at the July FOMC statement, they did indicate that they have seen progress toward their goals, but if you listen to [Powell’s] press conference, he really walked that back and said they are still a ways off from ‘substantial further progress’ threshold. So we expect Chairman Powell to remain resolutely dovish.”
“When we look out to 2022, we do think the taper is in full effect and is probably completed by the end of that year,” Griffiths added. “That could weigh on stocks a bit in 2022.”
Others noted that the Fed’s months-long hinting around tapering has helped prime markets for the eventual start of this process and shift toward less accommodative policy, removing the element of surprise that may otherwise have triggered a rush of volatility in risk assets.
“Powell has really kind of gone out of his way to over-communicate about the taper plans. He’s been talking about it for a year. They’ve been signposting,” John Bellows, Western Asset portfolio manager, told Yahoo Finance on Wednesday. “[Former Fed Chair Ben] Bernanke in May of 2013, I think, surprised a lot of people. They weren’t looking for a taper signal, and then all of a sudden Bernanke is talking about tapering. And I think it was that surprise that caused the volatility in 2013. And Powell’s desire to avoid that is why he’s been so deliberate in terms of communicating their plans.”
6:07 p.m. ET Wednesday Stock futures drift near records
Here’s where markets were trading Wednesday evening:
S&P 500 futures (ES=F): -0.5 points (-0.01%) at 4,492.50
Dow futures (YM=F): +22.00 points (+0.06%) to 35,382.00
Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): -2.25 points (-0.01%) to 15,362.00
Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @emily_mcck
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