U.S. stock futures limped ahead of the open Monday as investors braced for a jam-packed week of corporate earnings and contemplated the Federal Reserve’s next rate move ahead of the central bank’s meeting later this month.
Futures tied to the S&P 500 (^GSPC) edged down 0.1%, while futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) floated above breakeven. Contracts on the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC), meanwhile, where just below flat.
All eyes were on Salesforce (CRM) Monday morning after the Wall Street Journal reported hedge fund Elliott Investment Management has taken a multibillion-dollar activist stake in the software giant. Shares advanced nearly 5% pre-market.
“Salesforce is one of the preeminent software companies in the world, and having followed the company for nearly two decades, we have developed a deep respect for Marc Benioff and what he has built,” Elliott managing partner Jesse Cohn said in a statement. “We look forward to working constructively with Salesforce to realize the value befitting a company of its stature.”
Elsewhere in early moves, Spotify Technology (SPOT) shares rose roughly 4.5% in early trading after Bloomberg News reported the music streaming platform will cut 6% of its workforce, adding to a growing bout of cost-trimming layoffs across the technology sector.
The moves in Monday’s pre-market trade come after the S&P 500 and Nasdaq rallied toward a winning week on Friday, regaining their footing after two downbeat sessions. The Dow lagged for the week, falling just less than 2%.
Tech stocks have so far led an uptrend across U.S. equities that’s kicked off the year, with the Nasdaq gaining more than 6% in January so far.
On the economic side, despite messaging from Federal Reserve officials that interest rates will move above 5%, markets have cheered another expected downshift to a smaller hike in February after some weaker economic data points. The CME FedWatch Tool, which serves as a barometer for imminent Fed rate and U.S. monetary policy, shows markets are pricing in a 99.8% chance of a 25-basis point hike Feb. 2.
The U.S. dollar index, as well as U.S. Treasury yields, retreated Monday morning on these expectations.
The bets were also further bolstered by a weekend piece by Wall Street Journal reporter Nick Timiraos that said officials are preparing to slow down from 50 basis points in December to 25 basis points at their next policy-setting meeting Jan. 31-Feb. 1.
Investors are also entering the throes of what appears to be a murky earnings season. Market giants including Microsoft (MSFT) and Tesla (TSLA) are scheduled to report results this week, along with dozens of other big names. The days ahead will also be packed with Fedspeak and economic data, with a reading on gross domestic product (GDP) for the fourth quarter due out Thursday.
Of roughly 11% of companies in the S&P 500 index that have reported fourth-quarter earnings to date, just 67% have seen earnings per share come in above estimates — below the five-year average of 77% that typically do — according to data from FactSet Research. Moreover, Wall Street analysts have been downwardly revising estimates.
History shows, however, that stocks are more inclined to rise in years when earnings fall than not.
“This may seem counterintuitive, but it makes sense when we remind ourselves that markets are forward looking,” LPL Financial Chief Equity Strategist Jeffrey Buchbinder notes. “The markets generally price in earnings declines well before they happen—maybe two or three quarters ahead. By the time earnings declines are in the books, stocks have moved higher in anticipation of the next earnings upcycle.”
Alexandra Semenova is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alexandraandnyc