U.S. stock markets fall slightly after Powell’s testimony, with CPI in focus


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U.S. stock indexes fell slightly on Monday as investors await both Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s testimony and key inflation data for more signals on interest rates this week.

Futures stabilized in the wake of Wall Street hitting record highs on Friday last week as softer-than-expected nonfarm payrolls data increased optimism that the Fed will begin cutting interest rates by September.

Powell to speak, CPI data approaching

Powell will speak before both the Senate and House of Representatives on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, and the bulk of his testimony is expected to focus on monetary policy.

The previous week, Powell had indicated that although the Fed had made some progress on reducing inflation, policymakers still lacked the confidence to begin cutting rates. The minutes of the Fed’s June meeting served to reinforce this notion.

Weaker-than-estimated labor data from the previous week raised hopes that the labor market appeared to be cooling, giving the Fed more reason to begin cutting interest rates.

Inflation is likely to be the Fed’s main focus when considering interest rate cuts. On Thursday, the consumer price index will be released, which is expected to rise 0.1% month-over-month and 3.1% year-over-year. Core CPI is expected to increase 0.2%. The chance of a 25 basis point cut in September exceeds 72%, up from 57.9% the previous week.

Second quarter results start this week

Beyond interest rate estimates, the focus this week will be on the second-quarter earnings season, which kicks off on Friday with the results of a number of major banks.

Markets will be focused on the strength of corporate earnings under pressure from high interest rates and stiff inflation.

JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Wells Fargo (WFC) and Citigroup (C) will release their results on Friday.

Likewise, PepsiCo (PEP) and Delta Air Lines (DAL) will release their figures this week. Elsewhere, Skydance Media and Paramount Global (PARA) have decided to merge, according to an announcement made by both companies late Sunday, ending months of speculation. Meanwhile, Boeing (BA) has agreed to plead guilty to one count of criminal fraud conspiracy to aid and abet a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into two fatal 737 MAX crashes.

Crude oil prices ease after recent rallies

Oil prices gave up some of the gains made over the past four weeks on Monday as geopolitical tensions in the Middle East eased.

Talks have begun on a ceasefire plan aimed at ending the nine-month war in Gaza, brokered by Qatar and Egypt. Concern over the prospect of the conflict between Israel and Hamas spilling over into the Middle East region and disrupting crude oil supplies has underpinned oil markets. Separately, Hurricane Beryl is expected to make landfall in the middle of the Texas coast late Monday, with the possibility of passing through the state’s major oil exporting regions.

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