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Wall St eyes higher open with focus on Fed minutes

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(Reuters) -Wall Street’s main indexes were set to open higher on Wednesday on hopes of an economic recovery in China, while focus was also on minutes from the Federal Reserve’s December policy meeting for clues on the outlook for interest rate hikes.


FILE PHOTO: A street sign for Wall Street is seen outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, New York, U.S., July 19, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

Minutes from the Fed’s previous meeting, when it raised interest rates by half a percentage point and cautioned rates may need to remain higher for longer, are due to be released at 2 p.m. ET (1900 GMT).

The minutes could show the U.S. central bank’s internal deliberations entering a new phase where risks to economic growth and employment are given more standing, while curbing high inflation remains the top priority.

Meanwhile, U.S.-listed Chinese firms such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, Inc and Baidu Inc jumped over 6% each in premarket trading on hopes of a post-COVID recovery in China and on talk of support for the country’s housing sector.

Wall Street’s main indexes saw a rocky start to 2023 on Tuesday, with the biggest drags being Tesla Inc after the electric-vehicle maker missed estimates on deliveries and Apple Inc that slumped following a rating downgrade.

The declines followed a hit to U.S. equities in 2022 on worries of a recession due to aggressive monetary policy tightening, with the three main stock indexes logging their steepest annual losses since 2008.

“It’s a new year, but we’re stuck with the same macro conditions, which are still pretty discouraging,” said Dave Grecsek, managing director in investment strategy and research at Aspiriant.

“Two things that are really going to drive near-term market returns – whether Fed is going to stick to its word and be as firm with inflation and policy rates and whether the U.S. and the European economies enter recession.”

Investors on Wednesday will also monitor job openings data from the U.S. Labor Department and ISM manufacturing data due at 10 a.m. ET to assess the strength of the economy.

Market participants see a 68.8% chance of a 25-basis point rate hike from the Fed in February, and see rates peaking at 4.95% by June.

The more comprehensive non-farm payrolls report is due on Friday, with investors hoping to see signs of cooling in the labor market that could give the Fed reason to slow its monetary policy tightening.

At 8:24 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 111 points, or 0.33%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 20.75 points, or 0.54%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 98.25 points, or 0.9%.

Most rate-sensitive technology and other growth stocks such as Alphabet Inc, Inc and Meta Platforms Inc were up between 1.2% and 1.6%, helped by a decline in U.S. Treasury yields.

Bucking the trend, Microsoft Corp slipped 2.3% after UBS downgraded the company’s shares to “neutral” from “buy”.

Salesforce Inc gained 3.9% on the enterprise software firm’s workforce reduction plans.

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