Stocks wavered as central bank policy and inflation concerns remained front-of-mind for investors, with a recent surge in oil prices adding inflationary pressures.
Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 10 points, or less than 0.1%, after the index retreated 269 points on Wednesday to close at 32,910. S&P 500 futures indicated a start less than 0.1% lower with the tech stock-heavy Nasdaq poised to decline 0.1%.
Oil prices have moved higher in recent days. While futures for West Texas Intermediate crude were down less than 0.5% to $121.50 on Thursday, the U.S. benchmark has risen from around $114 at the end of May.
Higher prices stoke fears around inflation at a multidecade high, ramping up pressure on central banks including the Federal Reserve to act aggressively in tightening monetary policy, including with higher interest rates. The risk is that denting economic demand with higher borrowing costs could spur a recession.
Before the Fed’s next meeting on policy next week, the European Central Bank will meet on Thursday over interest rates.
“Overall there is a ‘wait and see’ mood pervading financial markets, as investors brace for a jolt of tightening from the European Central Bank, ending the long easy-money era,” said Susannah Streeter, an analyst at broker Hargreaves Lansdown . “This is a complex game of trying to rein in escalating inflation, while not suffocating growth.”
Markets will get more insight on the possible path from the Fed on Friday, when the latest batch of U.S. consumer price index inflation data is due.
“Markets approach this busy period on the nervous side with rates and equities selling off over the last 24 hours,” said Jim Reid, a strategist at Deutsche Bank .
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