Stocks traded around the flat line Monday morning as Wall Street fixed its focus on an upcoming Federal Reserve meeting where the central bank will issue its next interest rate decision. The meeting follows new economic data that showed easing core inflation and a cooling labor market, setting the stage for what the market and the broader public should expect for the Fed’s interest rate policy for the rest of the year and beyond.
The Fed is scheduled to meet on Tuesday and Wednesday, with the central bank planning to release its latest policy decision on Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. ET, followed by a press conference where Fed Chair Jerome Powell will take questions. Investors expect the Federal Open Market Committee to hold its benchmark interest rate steady in a range of 5.25%-5.5%.
The expectation of an interest rate hold has solidified in recent days. According to the CME FedWatch Tool, the probability that the Fed will pause its rate hikes next rose to 99% on Monday, up from 92% a week ago.
Last week, as Fed officials entered their “quiet period” leading up to the policy meeting, investors lost ground as sentiment turned to skittishness. Only the Dow posted weekly gains, while the S&P and the Nasdaq ended the week worse off.
The slight rise in August consumer prices won’t be enough to force the Fed to raise rates at this week’s meeting, many economists have noted. But fresh rounds of data that show stronger than expected signs keep the possibility open for future rate hikes and interest rates that stay elevated for longer.
Central bankers have raised rates 11 times since March 2022 in an aggressive tightening campaign to bring down historic levels of inflation. The Fed has set its sights on a 2% inflation target for the US economy.
On the corporate earnings front, FedEx (FDX) is expected to report on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the United Auto Workers strike that began on Friday enters its first full week as market observers assess the impact on production at Stellantis (STLA), GM (GM), and Ford (F).