Futures dip, Intel's disappointing outlook, PCE ahead - what's moving markets

January 26, 2024 6:57 AM EST -- U.S. stock futures edge down on Friday, as investors gauge a disappointing revenue outlook from chipmaker Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) and look ahead to fresh inflation data. Payments processor Visa (NYSE: V) forecasts a slowdown in quarterly revenue growth in its current quarter due in part to a recent cold snap in much of the U.S. that hit spending activity.

1. Futures lower

U.S. stock futures dipped on Friday, pointing to a possible retreat for equities after a week of gains.

By 05:20 ET (10:20 GMT), the Dow futures contract had fallen by 76 points or 0.2%, S&P 500 futures had lost 12 points or 0.2%, and Nasdaq 100 futures had slipped by 112 points or 0.6%.

The main indices on Wall Street jumped on Thursday, spurred on by a stronger-than-anticipated advance estimate of U.S. economic growth in the fourth quarter. The figure bolstered hopes that the world's largest economy was on course for a soft landing, a scenario in which inflation is quelled without sparking a steep downturn in activity.

The benchmark S&P 500 notched its fifth consecutive record close, climbing by 0.5%, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite grew by 0.2% and the 30-stock Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.6%.

Disturbing the upbeat sentiment was electric vehicle giant Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA), which slumped by 12.1% after it warned that sales would increase at a "notably lower" pace this year.

2. Intel unveils disappointing revenue outlook

Weighing on the mood in markets heading into the final trading day of the week was a disappointing first-quarter revenue forecast from Intel.

The semiconductor manufacturer said it expects to post revenue in its current three month period of $12.2 billion to $13.2 billion, a range that was well below Wall Street projections of $14.5 billion, according to LSEG data cited by Reuters. Quarterly income excluding one-off items was also seen at $0.13 per share, missing expectations of $0.33.

Shares in the California-based company sank in premarket U.S. trading on Friday.

In a post-earnings call with analysts, Chief Executive Officer Pat Gelsinger flagged that "discrete headwinds" at its auto chip division Mobileye and its programmable solutions spin-off are "impacting overall revenue," leading to the downbeat guidance. Intel's core business -- producing the chips used in personal computers and traditional servers -- has been facing seasonal demand pressures as well, Gelsinger noted.

Meanwhile, heavy investments, particularly around the development of artificial intelligence technologies, over the past year have dented Intel's gross margin. "Investors are beginning to collect the bill from last year's massive AI investments, and this is a clear message for the earnings season going forward," said Senior Analyst Thomas Monteiro.

3. Visa forecasts revenue growth slowdown

Shares in Visa edged down premarket on Friday following a tepid second-quarter sales guidance from the world's largest payments processor.

The company predicted an uptick in the "upper mid- to high single-digit" in net revenue during its current period -- implying a slowdown from the 11% increase posted in the corresponding period in 2023.

Speaking to analysts, Chief Financial Officer Chris Suh said that growth particularly decelerated in the first week of January due to a spell of extreme cold weather in many regions of the U.S. However, Suh added that the impact of this event will likely be "smoothed back out" over the course of the quarter.

In the three months until Dec. 31, Visa still delivered market-topping adjusted per-share profit of $2.41, thanks in large part to strong retail spending during the key shopping season between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday.

Visa rival American Express (NYSE: AXP) is slated to report its latest results on Friday, along with consumer products group Colgate-Palmolive (NYSE: CL) and transport firm Norfolk Southern (NYSE: NSC).

4. PCE data ahead

Headline and underlying U.S. price growth is anticipated to have grown by 0.2% on a month-on-month basis in December, a rate that many economists believe could help cool inflation back down to the Federal Reserve's target.

As measured by the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, inflation is estimated to have increased by 2.6% versus the year-ago period last month, matching November's pace.

The year-on-year mark of the so-called "core" reading, which strips out volatile items like food and energy, is also seen rising by 3.0% from 3.2% in November. This indicator -- widely known as the Fed's preferred gauge of inflation -- could suggest that price gains are continuing to slow back down to the central bank's 2% goal.

Easing inflation may have allowed Americans to open up their wallets during the holiday season. Consumer spending, which makes up more than two-thirds of overall U.S. economic activity, is projected to have expanded by 0.4%, accelerating from 0.2% last month.

Coupled with Thursday's solid gross domestic product figures, the data could factor into how the Fed approaches potentially lowering interest rates down from more than two-decade highs. Late last year, policymakers were expected to roll out cuts as early as March, but slowing inflation and resilient growth have pushed back these projections.

5. Crude dips, but remains on course for weekly gains

Oil prices fell Friday, handing back some of the previous session’s strong gains, but are still on course to climb for the week following healthy U.S. economic growth and signs of Chinese stimulus.

By 05:20 ET, the U.S. crude futures traded 1.1% lower at $76.49 a barrel, while the Brent contract dropped 0.8% to $81.74 per barrel, after climbing to their highest levels since December during the previous session.

The crude benchmarks are both still on track for their biggest weekly uptick since October, after data on Thursday showed the U.S. economy expanded more quickly than expected in the fourth quarter, suggesting resilience in the world’s largest crude consumer.

Elsewhere, China, the world's second-largest oil consumer, announced a deep cut to bank reserves in a bid to spur growth earlier in the week, while oil supply disruptions in the Red Sea also continued.

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