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Markets edged lower Tuesday morning following declines in yesterday’s trading session as investors tune in for on a prolific week in Washington that includes the Federal Reserve’s final policy-setting meeting of 2021, set to commence today, and the release of new prints on retail sales, housing starts and other economic data.
All three major U.S. indexes were down at open after the Labor Department reported wholesale prices soared by a record 9.6% in November from a year earlier, the fastest annual pace on record for the indicator. The Dow shed 141.06 points, dipping 0.40% to 35,509.89. The tech-focused Nasdaq tumbled 217.32 points, down 1.39% to 15,413.28, and the S&P also underperformed, falling 0.79% to 4,632.09
Traders are awaiting a decision from the Fed on how quickly the central bank will tighten monetary policy amid a backdrop of fresh inflation numbers that reflected the fastest annual increase in nearly four decades. The Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) soared 6.8% in November compared to last year, according to figures published last week.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) is scheduled to hold its two-day policy-setting meeting starting on Tuesday, followed by the release of the monetary policy statement and remarks from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell Wednesday. An updated Summary of Economic Projections outlining individual members’ outlooks for economic conditions and interest rates is set to accompany the statement.
The Fed has been under pressure to control rising inflation levels, as investors watch for clues of a faster taper that could set the stage for earlier rate hikes.
“Because inflation expectations do appear to be adaptive, our view is that the longer inflation stays elevated, the greater the risk that consumers adjust their behaviors in a way that contributes to persistently elevated inflation” wrote PIMCO economist Tiffany Wilding in a recent note to clients.
“We believe the Fed will want to manage this risk by shortening the time over which it winds down its purchases of U.S. Treasuries and agency mortgage-backed securities (MBS), aiming to end the program in March 2022, while also signaling a June rate hike is likely,” said Wilding.
PIMCO managing director and portfolio manager Sonali Pier also separately told Yahoo Finance Live that the firm expects to see two hikes in 2022, three hikes in 2023, and potentially four in 2024, with the Fed trying to bring the policy rate to neutral.
“Amid proliferating signs of solid growth and a robust job market, various measures depict a deeply troubled economy,” wrote Oxford Economics senior economist Bob Schwartz in a new report. “Households are downbeat, according to sentiment surveys, and the so-called ‘misery index’ that adds together inflation and unemployment hovers around recession levels.”
Markets await a trove of fresh economic data this week. November retail sales, out on Wednesday, are expected to rise by 0.8%, according to Bloomberg consensus estimates. And November housing starts are forecasted to see a month-over-month increase of 3.3%.
Meanwhile, Morgan Stanley projects the U.S. unemployment rate will drop to 3% in 2022.
“It’s stunning to see how much the rate has fallen in the last five months,” Morgan chief U.S. economist Michael Feroli told Yahoo Finance Live. “We expect that pace of decline to slow, but it doesn’t take much to get below 4%, even with a tick up in the labor participation rate which has been depressed over the last year and a half.”