Futures rise, PCE ahead, budget fight latest - what's moving markets

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Futures rise, PCE ahead, budget fight latest - what's moving markets

Investing.com -- U.S. stock markets remain on course for a September slump heading into the final trading day of the month, despite a positive session on Wall Street on Thursday. As the latest quarter also draws to a close, a gauge of inflation closely-watched by the Federal Reserve will be in focus, while investors will be keeping an eye on a tense budget fight in Washington ahead of a possible government shutdown this weekend.

1. Futures point higher

U.S. stock futures rose on Friday, suggesting an extension of gains made in the prior session, although equities remain on track to post a negative month.

At 04:51 ET (08:51 GMT), the Dow futures contract had added 154 points or 0.5%, S&P 500 futures increased by 21 points or 0.5%, and Nasdaq 100 futures jumped by 98 points or 0.7%.

The main indices on Wall Street finished in the green on Thursday, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite the outperformer following a climb of 0.8%. Stocks were supported by a pull-back in U.S. Treasury yields from 16-year highs.

Heading into the final trading day of both the month and quarter, the Nasdaq and benchmark S&P 500 are on course to slip to their worst months so far this year, while the 30-stock Dow Jones Industrial Average is on pace to decline by 3%.

On the data front, investors will be keeping an eye on the latest U.S. personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index -- the Federal Reserve's preferred inflation gauge -- due out later on Friday. Attention has been fixed recently on the Fed's future interest rate path, as well as a spike in oil prices and an ongoing budgetary stand-off in Washington that threatens to cause a government shutdown.

2. PCE ahead

Economists expect the headline PCE reading for August to accelerate, an occurrence that would suggest lingering upward pressure on prices in the world's largest economy.

The measure is seen speeding up to 0.5% from 0.2% in July on a monthly basis. Year-on-year , it is projected to jump to 3.5% from 3.3%.

However, the pace of the so-called " core " index, which strips out items like food and energy, is forecast to remain unchanged month-on-month and decelerate to 3.9% from 4.2% annually .

Fed officials will likely be paying close attention to the metric as they decide whether to raise borrowing costs again this year.

The central bank held rates at a range of 5.25% to 5.50% last week, but flagged that further tightening may be required at either its November or December meetings to help cool inflation. They also indicated that policy could need to stay at these elevated levels for a longer than anticipated period of time, a prospect that has weighed on stocks and sent bond yields soaring this week.

3. Senate, House take divergent paths as shutdown looms

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on a short-term funding bill on Friday as lawmakers attempt to avert a government shutdown that is set to begin this weekend.

But the legislation is unlikely to receive crucial backing from some hardline members of the Republican party in the lower chamber of Congress, who have been at odds with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy over spending levels set in a deal forged with President Joe Biden earlier this year.

The House did manage to pass three bills providing funds to sections of the government on Thursday, although the partisan measures would likely not receive support from the Democratic-controlled Senate. On their own, these would also not be enough to avoid a fourth federal shutdown in a decade.

Senators, meanwhile, agreed to open debate on a separate stop-gap bill that would extend spending until Nov. 17 and include provisions for aid to Ukraine and domestic disaster relief -- but it has already been rejected by House Republicans.

Wall Street is warily watching the budget battle, which comes just months after another bruising fight in Washington over the U.S. debt ceiling. Moody's (NYSE: MCO ), the final ratings agency to give the country a top-tier "Aaa" outlook, has warned that a shutdown may imperil this rating.

4. UAW strike expansion deadline approaches

The United Auto Workers union may reportedly expand its ongoing strikes at plants owned by three big U.S. automakers on Friday if labor talks with these firms fail to show significant progress.

Earlier this week, several media outlets reported that the UAW plans to extend the scope of the walkouts should no substantial headway be made in its fraught negotiations with General Motors (NYSE: GM ), Ford Motor (NYSE: F ) or Jeep-manufacturer Stellantis (NYSE: STLA ) by 10:00 ET today.

According to Reuters, the additional strikes would target factories producing these companies' large pickup trucks and SUVs, which could cost the businesses billions of dollars in revenue and profit.

The UAW, which first launched the strikes on Sept. 15, is at odds with the car groups over wage gains and benefits packages. About 18,300 UAW members are currently on strike, or roughly 12% of the total union members on staff at the so-called Detroit Three vehicle makers.

5. Oil heading for weekly gain amid supply tightness

Oil prices were lower in choppy trading on Friday, but remained on course for a 2% increase this week amid supply tightness in the U.S. and hopes for a bump up in demand in China during its Golden Week holiday.

Prices have surged by 30% in the latest quarter to their highest levels in 2023 thanks in part to moves by Saudi Arabia and Russia to extend output cuts until the end of the year. Further support has come recently from the U.S., where storage at a major delivery point point for U.S. crude futures are at their lowest levels since July 2022.

Meanwhile, strong travel activity over the week-long Golden Week holiday in China is also expected to boost demand in the world's biggest fuel importer.

Analysts are also looking ahead to a ministerial panel of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies -- known as OPEC+ -- next week, when reports suggest that Saudi Arabia, the group's de facto leader, may introduce a potential reduction in voluntary supply cuts. 

By 05:17 ET, the U.S. crude futures traded 0.1% lower at $91.64 a barrel, while the Brent contract dipped 0.2% to $92.91.

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