Stock market today: US futures steady with investors on data watch

US stock futures were steady on Wednesday after the S&P 500 wrapped up another all-time high, as investors shrugged off sticky inflation data to focus on fresh economic updates ahead.

Futures on the S&P 500 (^GSPC) and Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) hovered just above the flatline on the heels of Tuesday’s sharp across-the-board gains. Contracts on the tech-heavy Nasdaq 100 (^NDX) were also little changed.

Stocks rallied amid continued optimism that the Federal Reserve will start to cut interest rates within months despite February’s hotter-than-estimated reading on core consumer inflation.

That alone could prompt policymakers to stay cautious about easing up on borrowing costs when the Fed holds its monthly policy meeting next week. But with the US economy outstripping Wall Street’s forecasts, investors are keeping their hopes warm until they get wholesale inflation and retail sales data on Thursday.

On the crypto front, bitcoin (BTC-USD) was changing hands at around $73,290, continuing a rally that has lifted its price almost 75% this year so far.

In corporates, DollarTree’s (DLTR) shares sank 8% in premarket trading after it swung to a quarterly loss. The discount retailer said it plans to close nearly 1,000 stores and will take a charge of over $1 billion.

Live3 updates

  • On the clock: Nike

    Talk about an under-the-radar move. Blame all the focus on the AI names!

    Shares of Nike (NKE) have tanked 7.7% this year, lagging the S&P 500’s 8.5% gain. The bears point to concerns about the pace of sales growth for Nike inside of the sluggish Chinese economy. I have even heard some chatter there could be C-suite changes on deck for this year.

    But the dreadful quarter from Foot Locker (FL) last week got me to thinking there is a deeper problem with Nike. Maybe it’s not captivating the minds of consumers as it once did, consumers who are aggressively scooping up pairs of On Clouds (Yahoo Finance Live’s chat with the company’s co-CEOs on Tuesday) from On Holdings (ONON), and Hokas from Decker’s Outdoor (DECK).

    The Morgan Stanley team seems to be thinking along these lines as well ahead of the company’s March 21 earnings report. Here’s their call out on Nike’s production innovation:

    “This has been a key debate for investors recently, with many believing Nike innovation has stalled and is resulting in market share losses. While management admitted this shortcoming last quarter, and pointed to innovation evidence on the horizon for fiscal 2H24, the market was seemingly underwhelmed by the focus areas (Jordan and women’s), and consequently remains skeptical of if/when this positively flows through the P&L. While we appreciate the clear commitment and front-footedness from management on the topic, this likely remains an overhang as long as Nike is under-pacing its long-term topline growth targets, in our view.”

  • Two markets stats to keep in mind this week

    With Nvidia’s (NVDA) big 7% reversal on Tuesday (some follow-through this morning), you get the sense traders want to believe recent volatility in the markets is over.

    And who knows, maybe they will prove correct.

    But I do want to remind you that this is a market that — based on a few measures (RSI Index, etc.) — is over-extended and warranting of a pullback.

    Just check out these two simple stats.

    The S&P 500 has made 17 record highs this year, the most in any first quarter since 1945. Wow! And then two, the last time the S&P 500 fell more than 5% was in October.

  • Dividends!

    It makes my day to see good old-fashioned dividends back en vogue amongst companies (I am not a stock buyback fan).

    Corporate dividends globally reached an all-time high of $1.66 trillion in 2023, according to a new report from Janus Henderson today. That marked a 5% year-over-year increase.

    The number could be even meatier in 2024 amid the first-ever dividend payouts from Meta (META) and Salesforce (CRM).

    Playing around with Yahoo Finance data provides a look at some of the cash-rich, well-known companies that are both great dividend payers AND growers.

    On the prowl for dividends.

    On the prowl for dividends. (Yahoo Finance)