Stock futures are little changed ahead of key inflation report

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U.S. stock futures were mostly flat on Monday evening ahead of a highly anticipated inflation report set for release before Tuesday’s opening bell on Wall Street.

Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 21 points, or less than 0.1%. Those for the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq 100 saw similarly modest increases.

The move in futures comes ahead of the March reading for the consumer price index, scheduled to be released at 8:30 a.m. ET. Economists polled by Dow Jones are projecting the headline index to rise by 0.5% month-over-month and 2.5% year-over-year.

Government officials, including Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell on Sunday and Biden administration economists on Monday, stressed that while they expect a jump in inflation in the months ahead, the change could prove temporary due to comparisons with last year’s pandemic lockdowns and extra consumer spending from stimulus checks and pent-up demand.

Private sector strategists and economists also said that the reading may not be a true gauge of rising prices.

“We will soon see impact from the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic on the economic data. A particular focus area will be inflation. Our message is simple: Don’t fall prey to this head fake,” Putnam Investments said in a note on Monday.

Fed officials said they are willing to let inflation run hot for a period of time without changing their accommodative policy stance, including asset purchases and a benchmark interest near zero.

Markets were quiet on Monday, with the three major indexes pulling back slightly. The S&P 500 finished just a hair under its previous record close, while the Dow slipped 55 points. The Nasdaq Composite was the laggard, shedding 0.4%.

The bond market was also subdued on Monday, with the 10-year Treasury yield edging slightly higher to trade near 1.67%. Yields move inversely to prices.

The market has been calm over the past week as Wall Street settled into a lull ahead of the first-quarter earnings season. Corporate news is set to pick up later in the week, with JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Delta Air Lines among the companies set to report quarterly results.

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