ASX set to slide as Wall Street retreats

By Stan Choe

US stocks are drifting around their record heights following a mixed set of profit reports.

The S&P 500 was 0.2 per cent lower in afternoon trading. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 44 points, or 0.1 per cent, as of 12:52 p.m. Eastern time, and the Nasdaq composite was 0.8 per cent lower. The Australian sharemarket is set to slip, with futures at 4.58am AEDT pointing to a retreat of 15 points, or 0.2 per cent at the open. The ASX added 0.3 per cent on Tuesday to edge closer to a record closing high.

Wall Street is lower on Tuesday.
Wall Street is lower on Tuesday.Credit: Bloomberg

UPS slumped 7.5 per cent even though it reported stronger profit for the latest quarter than analysts expected. Its revenue fell short of Wall Street’s estimates, and it also gave a forecast for full-year revenue in 2024 that was weaker than expected.

Whirlpool sank 5.8 per cent despite likewise reporting a better profit than expected. Its forecast for 2024 revenue of $US16.9 billion ($25.6 billion) was roughly $US1 billion below analysts’ estimates.

Helping to offset those losses was General Motors. The automaker jumped 8 per cent after reporting stronger profit and revenue than expected.

Treasury yields were mixed in the bond market and erased earlier losses after a report suggested the job market may be warmer than economists expected. US employers advertised 9 million job openings at the end of December, which was a touch more than economists expected and slightly above November’s level.

Traders were hoping the data would show a cooldown in the number of openings. That would have fit more neatly into the trend that’s sent Wall Street to a record: a slowdown in the economy’s growth strong enough to keep a lid on inflation but not so much that it will create a recession.

Such hopes are what ignited excitement about the potential for the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates several times this year. Cuts would mark a sharp turnaround from its dramatic hikes to rates over the last two years, and the reductions would give a boost to the economy and investment prices.

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The Federal Reserve is beginning its latest policy meeting on interest rates, but virtually no one expects it to cut rates this soon. That nevertheless won’t stop economists and traders from parsing every bit of communication coming out of the Fed Wednesday after its meeting finishes. They’ll be searching for clues that a rate cut may arrive at its next meeting in March.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury slipped to 4.08 per cent from 4.09 per cent late Monday. It was at 4.04 per cent just before the data on job openings and a separate report showing consumer confidence is rising more than expected.

The two-year Treasury yield, which moves more on expectations for the Fed’s action, rose more. It climbed to 4.37 per cent from 4.32 per cent late Monday.

After trading ends for the day, a pair of Wall Street’s most influential stocks will also report their latest quarterly results.

Microsoft and Alphabet are two of the largest stocks in the market by value, which gives their movements outsized sway on the S&P 500 and other indexes. They, along with five other Big Tech stocks, have also accounted for the majority of the S&P 500’s torrid rally since hitting a bottom two Octobers ago.

Expectations have built high for them, and they’ll need to deliver to justify their huge gains. Microsoft has jumped roughly 69 per cent over the last 12 months, while Alphabet has gained a little more than 57 per cent.

Three more of the “Magnificent Seven” Big Tech stocks will report their results on Thursday: Apple, Amazon and Meta Platforms.

Companies that have reported better profits than expected so far this reporting have not been getting as big a pop as usual, analysts say.

JetBlue Airways sank 5.7 per cent despite reporting a milder loss for the last three months of 2023 than analysts expected. It said it expects revenue to be roughly flat in 2024, while its cost pressures outside of fuel will likely rise.

In stock markets abroad, Chinese indexes slumped to tack more losses onto their already tough start to the year.

Shares in property developer China Evergrande Group, the world’s most heavily indebted real estate company, remained suspended from trading after a Hong Kong court ordered the liquidation of the company.

Other property companies led the decline in Hong Kong, where the Hang Seng index sank 2.3 per cent. Stocks in Shanghai gave up 1.8 per cent.

Chinese regulators have been moving to prop up the markets amid worries about the troubled property industry and disappointing growth in the world’s second-largest economy.

Stocks were mixed elsewhere in Asia and rising modestly in Europe.

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Source: Thanks smh.com