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U.S. CPI ahead, SEC approves first spot Bitcoin ETFs - what's moving markets

Investing.com -- Traders are awaiting key U.S. inflation numbers for December, which could play into how the Federal Reserve approaches potential interest rate reductions this year. Elsewhere, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission approves several applications to create spot Bitcoin exchange-traded funds, in a landmark decision for the cryptocurrency industry.

1. Crucial inflation data ahead

Headline U.S. inflation is expected to have sped up marginally in December, while the annual underlying reading is seen slowing, as Federal Reserve officials search for signs of easing price gains before rolling out possible interest rate cuts this year.

Economists estimate that the year-on-year consumer price index (CPI) from the world's largest economy accelerated to 3.2% last month, up from 3.1% in November. Month-on-month, the pace is projected to increase to 0.2%.

But the rate of the so-called "core" measure, which strips out volatile items like food and energy, is tipped to drop to 3.8%, down from 4.0% in the prior month. On a monthly basis, core CPI is anticipated to match November's figure of 0.3%.

Fed policymakers will likely be closely watching the data, which could factor into how they approach rate reductions later in 2024. In a speech on Wednesday, New York Fed President John Williams argued it is still too soon to call for cuts because inflation is well above the bank's stated 2% target.

Williams' comments echoed sentiments from other rate-setters, who have recently moved to temper soaring market enthusiasm for potential reductions early this year. This optimism, fueled in part by a dovish Fed outlook last month, drove a rally in stocks in the final weeks of 2023 that has since lost some steam.

2. Futures edge higher

U.S. stock futures inched higher on Thursday, with traders gearing up for the publication of the inflation data at 08:30 ET (13:30 GMT).

By 05:04 ET (10:04 GMT), the Dow futures contract had gained 40 points or 0.1%, S&P 500 futures had increased by 8 points or 0.2%, and Nasdaq 100 futures had added 59 points or 0.4%.

The main indices on Wall Street closed in the green on Wednesday. The benchmark S&P 500 rose by 0.6% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite climbed by 0.8%, while the 30-stock Dow Jones Industrial Average advanced by 0.5%.

In individual stocks, shares in Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA) touched a fresh record high after peer TSMC posted fourth-quarter revenue that beat expectations, while Facebook-owner Meta Platforms (NASDAQ:META) hit its highest intraday level since 2021 following a price target upgrade from anaysts at Mizuho.

Along with inflation, investors are awaiting a raft of financial results from major U.S. banks later in the week.

3. SEC approves first spot Bitcoin ETFs

Bitcoin was trading higher on Thursday after the top U.S. securities regulator approved the first exchange-traded funds tracking the spot price of the cryptocurrency.

By 05:04 ET, Bitcoin had risen 1.4% to $46,283.4.

In a decision that is anticipated to have sweeping implications for the wider crypto industry, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission gave the green light on Wednesday to 11 applications from a range of issuers, including BlackRock (NYSE:BLK) and Fidelity as well as digital currency asset manager Grayscale.

Some proponents of Bitcoin, the world's most popular cryptocurrency, have claimed that the SEC's approval would spark a rush of demand into the token. Through a spot Bitcoin ETF, investors will have the chance to gain exposure to the digital asset without directly owning it. Detractors have, however, flagged that ETFs could persuade retail traders to pour money into a sector that has been beset with a spate of fraud-related scandals and huge volatility.

The decision, which was backed by SEC Chair and known crypto-skeptic Gary Gensler, marked a U-turn for a commission that has largely been reticent to sign off on a spot Bitcoin ETF for much of the past decade. It also comes after hackers temporarily took control of the SEC's account on social media platform X on Wednesday and falsely claimed that the regulator had already approved the applications, sparking wild fluctuations in the price of Bitcoin.

4. Google announces lay-offs across multiple teams - reports

Alphabet's (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Google is dismissing hundreds of its employees across several divisions to decrease costs and support an ongoing push into artificial intelligence, according to media reports.

Citing a Google spokesperson, the reports said the lay-offs will impact workers at the search giant's core engineering division. Hundreds of roles at its Voice Assistant division, as well as the hardware team behind its Pixel phone, Nest smart home devices, and Fitbit watches, will be eliminated.

The exact number of employees losing their jobs was not immediately specified by Google, the reports said. 

Google's cuts extend a continuing trend of job reductions in the tech industry. On Wednesday, e-commerce group Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) reportedly laid off several hundred employees at its live-streaming unit Twitch, Prime Video service and MGM studios.

5. Oil rebounds following U.S. inventories build

Oil prices rose Thursday, rebounding after the previous session’s weakness as attacks on shipping through the Red Sea persisted.

By 05:04 ET, the U.S. crude futures traded 1.9% higher at $72.75 a barrel, while the Brent contract climbed 1.8% to $78.18 per barrel.

Both benchmarks settled lower on Wednesday after official data showed an unexpected weekly build of 1.3 million barrels in U.S. inventories, contrasting with earlier industry data that signaled a weekly draw.

While the build was minimal, the data also showed a second straight week of large product inventory builds, pointing to softness in U.S. fuel demand. This notion was exacerbated by a severe winter storm on the east coast of the country, which further disrupted road travel in the world’s largest fuel consumer.

However, the market remained supported by ongoing concerns about disruptions to Middle East supplies after Yemen-based Houthis mounted their largest attack yet on commercial shipping lanes in the Red Sea on Wednesday.


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