Financial stocks stuck close to the flatline on Thursday, Sept. 14, as investors awaited a rush of data to close out the week before assessing how the Federal Reserve might move on interest rates next week.
The Fed already has made it fairly clear that it will kick off its plans to reduce its balance sheet in September. The Fed had previously said it would begin unwinding its $4.5 trillion balance sheet "relatively soon" should the economy continue to grow at the pace expected.
But a year-end rate hike is still a little more touch-and-go. The Fed had previously telegraphed three rate hikes this year, and with two already out of the way the third was expected in December. However, continued softness in inflation data and with Hurricane Harvey and Irma likely to cloud economic data for the foreseeable future, the Fed may take a punt on that last 2017 hike.
The chances the Fed holds rates unchanged at its September meeting sit at more than 98%, according to the CME Group. Fed funds futures are currently pricing in a nearly 51% chance of a 25-basis-point increase at the December meeting, putting the federal funds rate at 1.25% to 1.5%.
The Federal Open Market Committee, the decision-making branch of the central bank, will meet for two days beginning on Tuesday, Sept. 19. An announcement and updated forecasts will be released on Wednesday, Sept. 20, followed by press comments from Fed Chair Janet Yellen.
There's also a lot of economic data to cross investor desks before the week is out. Retail sales and industrial production for August, the Empire State Manufacturing Survey for September, a preliminary reading for consumer sentiment for September, and business inventories for July will be released on Friday.
Banking stocks were mixed on Thursday as traders awaited further clarity from the Fed and the economic data for potential rate-hike plans. JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) , Bank of America Corp. (BAC) , Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) , HSBC Holdings PLC (HSBC) , and Citigroup Inc. (C) saw small gains and losses. The Financial Select Sector SPDR ETF (XLF) was down 0.14%.
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