Dow Futures down 15 pts; cautious trading ahead of Powell speech

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Dow Futures down 15 pts; cautious trading ahead of Powell speech

By Peter Nurse -- U.S. stocks are seen opening mixed Wednesday, amid cautious trading ahead of a keenly awaited speech by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell as well as important growth and labor market data.

At 07:00 ET (12:00 GMT), the Dow Futures contract was down 15 points or 0.1%, while S&P 500 Futures traded 8 points or 0.2% higher, and Nasdaq 100 Futures climbed 45 points or 0.4%.

The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average closed largely unchanged on Tuesday, while the broad-based S&P 500 fell 0.2%, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite ended 0.6% lower.

Investors have been keeping an eye on developments in China, amid optimism that authorities in the second largest economy in the world are considering to loosen strict COVID-19 restrictions in the wake of widespread civil unrest.

That said, it will undoubtedly take some time to materially raise vaccination rates there, and thus attention Wednesday will turn to more domestic matters.

Fed Chair Jerome Powell is scheduled to deliver a speech at the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at Brookings, and investors will be listening for further clues on monetary policy.

Powell is expected to signal that the U.S. central bank will slow the pace of its interest rate hikes next month but could also imply that the terminal rate will have to be higher than first thought to be sufficiently restrictive and stay there for longer.

The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates by 75 basis points at its last four policy-setting meetings, pushing borrowing costs to their highest levels since 2008.

There is also a substantial amount of economic data for investors to digest Wednesday, including JOLTS job openings , ADP (NASDAQ: ADP ) employment , Chicago PMI and the second estimate of third quarter GDP and PCE prices.

In the corporate sector, earnings are due from the likes of Salesforce (NYSE: CRM ), Hormel Foods (NYSE: HRL ), Synopsys (NASDAQ: SNPS ) and Five Below (NASDAQ: FIVE ), while Airbnb (NASDAQ: ABNB ) will also be in the spotlight after the company launched a platform allowing renters to offer short-term sublets.

Crude oil prices rose Wednesday, boosted by an industry report showing falling U.S. crude inventories, pointing to tighter supply conditions in the world’s largest consumer of crude.

Data from the American Petroleum Institute , released Tuesday, showed that U.S. crude stocks shrank by a much bigger-than-expected 7.9 million, suggesting that the U.S. government has likely scaled back its drawdowns from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

Official government data from the Energy Information Administration are due to be released later Wednesday.

By 07:00 ET, U.S. crude futures traded 2.3% higher at $79.97 a barrel, while the Brent contract rose 2.2% to $86.06.

Additionally, gold futures rose 1.6% to $1,775.65/oz, while EUR/USD traded 0.3% higher at 1.0357.

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