US stocks mostly retreat ahead of Powell remarks

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK - Wall Street stocks mostly closed lower on Tuesday as markets anticipated an appearance from Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell that could offer clues on the direction of monetary policy.

Mr Powell’s address on Wednesday at the Brookings Institution comes as markets expect the central bank to soon moderate its policy of aggressive interest rate hikes to counter inflation.

Investors were “hesitant” on Tuesday as they waited to see if Mr Powell would indeed confirm such a shift, said LBBW’s Karl Haeling.

“Markets have a chance to trade higher tomorrow as long as he doesn’t deliver any surprise,” Mr Haeling said.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average veered into negative territory much of the day before ending essentially flat at 33,852.53.

The broad-based S&P 500 slipped 0.2 per cent to 3,957.63, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index shed 0.6 per cent to 10,983.78.

Consumer confidence in the United States slipped for a second straight month in November, likely due to a rise in gas prices, according to a survey released by the Conference Board.

Meanwhile, the National Retail Federation estimated that 196.7 million Americans shopped in stores and online in the five-day stretch between last Thursday’s Thanksgiving and “Cyber Monday,” a better-than-expected result that highlighted the resilience of US consumers despite soaring inflation.

But the group warned of a “devastating” hit if there is a freight rail strike, backing a call from President Joe Biden for Congress to intervene in the matter.

Congressional leaders from both major parties expressed support for employing a rarely-used legislative power to avert a strike. AFP

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