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Stock market today: Stocks set for bounce back after Fed, with Big Tech round 2 on deck


US stock futures signaled a rebound Thursday after the worst sell-off in months on Wall Street, as investors recalibrated their timeline for rate cuts from the Federal Reserve and prepared for a heavy-hitting round of megacap tech earnings.

Futures tied to the benchmark S&P 500 (^GSPC) rose 0.3%, while those on the blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) hovered above the flatline. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC), which suffered a more than 2% decline Wednesday, pointed up by about 0.5%.

The financial world is moving fast and furious this week, but the Fed remained the focus Thursday morning. Fed Chair Jerome Powell, while cementing a pivot in the central bank’s rate plans, gave investors looking for quick interest rate cuts a wake-up call. He hinted that he views it unlikely that the bank would begin to cut rates at the Fed’s next meeting in March, something that was viewed largely as a toss-up earlier this week.

Indeed, according to the CME FedWatch tool, investors were pricing in about a two-thirds chance of another hold at the March meeting, while almost all bets are on a small — or larger — cut come May.

Meanwhile, members of the “Magnificent Seven” will take center stage after the closing bell, with Apple (AAPL), Amazon (AMZN), and Meta (META) set to report earnings. Tuesday’s first batch of Big Tech results from Microsoft (MSFT) and Alphabet (GOOGL, GOOG) failed to live up to investors’ lofty expectations, helping send those stocks lower.

Lest we forget, the economic world has one more narrative-fueling data point waiting this week. Investors will get a snapshot of January’s job market with Friday’s nonfarm payrolls report.

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    Layoffs announced in January were up, but also down

    The January job cuts report from staffing firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas out Thursday morning showed that layoff announcements were on the rise in January compared to December, but also down notably from what we saw a year ago.

    Last month, the firm counted 82,307 job cut announcements, up 136% from December but down 20% from the 102,943 cuts announced this month last year.

    But even with that decline from last year’s total, January 2024 saw third-highest number of layoff announcements of any January since 2009.

    Initial jobless claims data out Thursday also showed a slight uptick in the number of first-time filings for unemployment insurance, with claims totaling 224,000 last week, up from 9,000 in the prior week.

    Still, this overall level of initial claims remains near historic lows.

    Both reports come ahead of Friday’s January jobs report, and follow commentary from Fed Chair Jerome Powell on Wednesday that said the labor market continues to come into better balance.

    Powell did note, however, that the supply of available workers is still lower than overall job demand — that is, there is more than 1 job open for each person seeking work right now.



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