US futures tread water ahead of key inflation print

US stocks meandered before the bell on Wednesday, still going nowhere in the wait for a crucial inflation reading that could ease worries interest rates will stay higher for longer.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) and the S&P 500 (^GSPC) nudged 0.1% higher, while those on the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 (^NDX) tipped up roughly 0.2%.

Stocks have put in a lackluster performance in the countdown to the Consumer Price Index reading for March, one of the most important points the Federal Reserve will consider in its next policy decision.

Odds of a rate cut in June have fallen as Fed speakers stressed they want to see clear signs of cooling inflation before making a move. Meanwhile, a stronger-than-expected US economy has undermined hopes for a shift, setting investors on watch for signs of stalling in inflation easing.

The CPI report, set for release at 8:30 a.m. ET, is expected to show annual headline inflation of 3.4%, compared with 3.4% in February. Core inflation — which strips out food and energy prices — is seen as rising 3.7% on the year, a slowdown from 3.8% growth the previous month.

A hotter-than-expected reading may well weigh on stocks, while signs of cooling could give impetus to a market that has lost its mojo since starting the year with a bang.

Also on deck are the minutes from the Fed’s meeting in March, likely to be highly scrutinized for any hints of crumbling in policymakers’ expectations for rate cuts.

At the same time, first-quarter earnings season kicks off with results from Delta (DAL), in focus as the airline industry grapples with the fallout from Boeing’s (BA) ongoing troubles. That will set the stage for reports on Friday from big Wall Street banks, whose profits aren’t expected to dazzle.

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  • Here’s a markets stat to get your day started right

    Remember when the market was going up almost every single day in March?

    Not the case in April so far, and the losing ways are beginning to pile up.

    The S&P 500 has now gone seven consecutive sessions without a new record, points out the strategy team at Deutsche Bank this morning. That marks the longest period without an all-time high since January, back when the S&P 500 surpassed its 2022 peak.

    The next streak to be broken…the S&P 500 is currently on a run of five consecutive monthly gains dating back to November.

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