Futures inch lower, U.S. services data looms - what's moving markets

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Futures inch lower, U.S. services data looms - what's moving markets

Investing.com -- U.S. stock futures decline as investors gauge the outlook for Federal Reserve monetary policy and digest extended supply cuts by major oil producers Saudi Arabia and Russia. Elsewhere, new data later in the session on Wednesday will provide a look into the state of the key U.S. services sector, while China's Tencent prepares to unveil a new AI chatbot.

1. Futures edge down

U.S. stock futures pointed lower on Wednesday after a losing session marked the beginning of a holiday-shortened trading week.

By 05:24 ET (09:24 GMT), the Dow futures contract dipped by 64 points or 0.2%, S&P 500 futures lost 12 points or 0.3%, and Nasdaq 100 futures shed 67 points or 0.4%.

The main indices on Wall Street posted losses on Tuesday, while the dollar touched a six-month high and government bond yields inched up, as traders attempted to suss out the future path of interest rates.

Fed official Christopher Waller suggested that the U.S. central bank is set to keep borrowing costs steady at its policy meeting this month. He added that the probability of a so-called "soft landing" is growing, a trend that could convince the Fed to refrain from cutting rates any time soon.

The comments added fuel to speculation that U.S. interest rates may need to stay "higher for longer" in response to ongoing resilience in the broader economy.

2. Oil reverses course after touching $90

Oil prices slipped on Wednesday, but still hovered around nine-month highs, weighed down by a stronger dollar and the waning impact of new supply cuts from two major crude producers.

Saudi Arabia is due to extend its output cut of 1 million barrels per day (bpd) until the end of December, according to a report from a state news agency. Separately, Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak also said in a statement that Moscow would bring down oil exports by 300,000 bpd until the end of 2023.

Tuesday's announcements, which surprised traders looking for extensions only until the end of October, sparked a jump in international benchmark Brent crude to above $90 a barrel for the first time this year. The higher prices threatened to ignite renewed global inflation concerns that could influence central bank monetary policy.

Yet the gains were ultimately mitigated by the U.S. dollar, which is exchanging hands near a six-month peak following a string of disappointing economic data releases from China and Europe.

By 05:25 ET, the U.S. crude futures traded 0.7% lower at $86.08 a barrel, while the Brent contract dropped 0.8% to $89.34. Both contracts remain close to their highest level since mid-November.

3. U.S. services data ahead

U.S. services industry data are set to be released on Wednesday morning, giving Fed policymakers and investors alike fresh insight into the trajectory of the world's largest economy.

The ISM non-manufacturing purchasing managers' index is projected to come in at 52.5 in August, down from 52.7 in the prior month. A reading above 50 indicates expansion; below 50, contraction.

The figure serves as a gauge of activity in the services industry, a crucial sector that accounts for over two-thirds of the U.S. economy. At current levels, it hints at U.S. economic resilience despite an unprecedented spike in interest rates since March 2022.

Fed officials will likely be keeping a particularly close eye on any movements in service sector prices. These are typically less responsive to interest rate increases, but still play a crucial role in the central bank's fight to cool inflation down to its 2% target. A measure of prices paid by services businesses ticked up to 56.8 in July.

4. Evergrande soars amid stimulus hopes

Shares in real estate giant China Evergrande Group (HK: 3333 ) surged by more than 82%, leading gains in the stocks of other Chinese developers, as hopes grew that Beijing would roll out more measures to support the country's ailing property industry.

In a commentary published on Wednesday, state-owned newspaper Securities Times backed the removal of policies that restrict property purchases in smaller cities, arguing that there has been a "significant change" in the sector's supply and demand dynamics.

Over the past week, China has relaxed regulations on home purchases in several major cities in a bid to reinvigorate its domestic property market.

Real estate was the top performing sector on the Hang Seng Index , with Country Garden Holdings (HK: 2007 ) and Logan Property Holdings (HK: 3380 ) rallying by about 21% and 29%, respectively.

5. Tencent to unveil AI chatbot

Tencent Holdings Ltd (HK: 0700 ) is gearing up to release a new artificial intelligence chatbot this week, the Chinese internet behemoth said on Wednesday, as Beijing continues to bolster its presence in generative AI.

Chinese officials approved AI chatbots for public release last month, firing the starting gun on a race among China's tech firms to develop these automated services. Tencent peers SenseTime Group, Baidu (NASDAQ: BIDU ) and ByteDance launched their own ChatGPT-like services last week.

In a social media post, Shenzhen-based Tencent featured a demo conversation that shows the chatbot helping a user draft promotional materials. The company added that its cloud division will unveil the chatbot at its upcoming Global Digital Ecosystem Summit on Thursday.

Tencent's Hong Kong-listed shares closed 0.4% lower on Wednesday.

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