By Ankika Biswas and Shreyashi Sanyal
(Reuters) -Wall Street was set to extend gains on Thursday after data showed a mild easing in inflation and solid consumer spending in October, adding to hopes of a likely downshift in the Federal Reserve’s policy on aggressive rate hikes.
A reading from the Commerce Department showed consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, rose 0.8% after an unrevised 0.6% increase in September.
The core personal consumption expenditure (PCE) index, excluding volatile items, eased to 0.2%, against expectations of 0.3%.
“People are feeling that the worst is behind us,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA Research in New York.
“Today’s PCE was sort of a confirmation that indeed inflation is coming down and would offer credibility to the likelihood that the Fed will raise rates by 50 basis points in December and then probably end its rate tightening program in the latter part of the first quarter.”
This added to optimism after Fed Chair Jerome Powell said on Wednesday it was time to slow down coming interest rate hikes, while also signaling a protracted economic adjustment amid high borrowing costs.
The S&P 500 index closed above its 200-day moving average for the first time since April in the previous session, while the Nasdaq index ended over 4% higher.
Powell, however, cautioned that the fight against inflation was far from over and indicated that the terminal rate will be “somewhat higher” than the 4.6% indicated by policymakers in their September projections.
Traders are now seeing a 91% chance that the Fed will increase its key benchmark rate by 50 basis points in December, with the terminal rate expected to peak under 5% in May 2023. [FEDWATCH]
Investors also await nonfarm payrolls data on Friday, with the ADP report on Wednesday suggesting cooling demand for labor.
Separately, a report from the Labor Department on Thursday showed initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 16,000 to a seasonally adjusted 225,000 for the week ended Nov. 26.
At 8:53 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 38 points, or 0.11%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 12.5 points, or 0.31%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 34.75 points, or 0.29%.
Most megacap technology and growth stocks such as Alphabet Inc, Apple Inc, Microsoft Corp, Tesla Inc and Meta Platforms Inc reversed earlier declines to rise between 0.2% and 0.5% amid a dip in Treasury yields.
Salesforce Inc lost 7.1% in premarket trading on Thursday after the software maker said Bret Taylor would step down as co-chief executive officer in January and that co-founder Marc Benioff will become the sole CEO.
Costco Wholesale Corp fell 3.2% after the membership-only retail chain reported slower sales growth in November.
(Reporting by Ankika Biswas and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Bansari Mayur Kamdar and Shubham Batra; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta)