Wall St edges higher as inflation data bolsters rate-pause hopes

By Shristi Achar A and Amruta Khandekar

(Reuters) -Wall Street’s main indexes edged higher on Thursday after inflation data came in line with estimates, fueling hopes the Federal Reserve could pause its monetary tightening, while Salesforce shares climbed on upbeat forecasts.

The Commerce Department report showed the Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) price index, considered to be the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge, climbed 3.3% in July on an annual basis, meeting expectations of a 3.3% rise.

Excluding volatile food and energy components, the core PCE price index rose 4.2% in July, year-on-year, also in line with estimates.

Traders’ odds for a pause in rate hikes at the Fed’s September policy meet remained intact at 88.5%, while their bets on the central bank keeping rates unchanged in November stood at 51%, according to the CME Group’s FedWatch tool.

“You’re seeing inflation really decelerating, which is the narrative that we’ve had for a while now,” said Tony Roth, chief investment officer at Wilmington Trust.

“There’s a lot of data that’s still to come (but) it’s very possible the Fed won’t move in November and that we’re done with rate hikes.”

Investors are now awaiting the more comprehensive non-farm payrolls data due on Friday for more clarity on the Fed’s likely monetary path.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury notes eased to 4.09%, driving major growth stocks including Amazon, Meta Platforms and Tesla up between 0.8% and 2.1%.

Helping keep the Dow Jones Industrial Average afloat, Salesforce rose 3.3% on upbeat revenue forecasts from the cloud-based software provider as it benefits from price hikes and a resilient demand.

The weekly jobless claims for the week ended Aug. 26 fell to 228,000, compared with estimates of 235,000 claims, reining in investor sentiment.

The data follows a smaller-than-expected growth in private payrolls on Wednesday that signaled a softening labor market and drove the S&P 500 to a three-week closing high.

All the three main indexes were on course to post losses this month, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq set for their first monthly decline in five on interest rate uncertainty.

At 11:42 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 24.46 points, or 0.07%, at 34,914.70, the S&P 500 was up 7.81 points, or 0.17%, at 4,522.68, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 54.59 points, or 0.39%, at 14,073.90.

Among other stocks, Dollar General slumped 14.7% after the discount retailer cut its annual same-store sales forecast. Peer Dollar Tree’s shares also fell 2.6%.

Dismal manufacturing data from China sent U.S.-listed shares of Chinese companies JD.com and Baidu down 3.1% and 1.8%, respectively.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.53-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and 1.40-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 19 new 52-week highs and three new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 57 new highs and 51 new lows.

(Reporting by Shristi Achar A and Amruta Khandekar in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi)