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5 things to know before the stock market opens Wednesday

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1. Wall Street looks steady ahead of expected Fed pivot

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on December 13, 2021 in New York City.

Spencer Platt | Getty Images

U.S. stocks futures pointed to a slightly lower open ahead of the Federal Reserve‘s widely expected announcement Wednesday afternoon of a faster tapering of its bond purchases. Tech stocks once again led Wall Street lower Tuesday, with the Nasdaq dropping another 1.1% after a nearly 1.4% decline Monday. The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell for the second straight session Tuesday after the government said November producer prices year over year rose at the fastest clip on record. November consumer prices, out last week, showed their biggest year-over-year jump in nearly 40 years.

2. Retail sales seen holding up despite higher prices

Shoppers at the King of Prussia mall in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021.

Hannah Beier | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Facing higher prices, the government’s 8:30 a.m. ET report on November retail sales is expected show a month-over-month increase of 0.8% compared with October’s 1.7% jump. Last month’s estimated advance would basically match September’s and August’s increases. The trend on retail sales numbers, which are adjusted for seasonal variations but not for inflation, indicate consumers are willing to pay the higher prices heading into the holiday shopping season.

3. Fed’s anticipated faster taper could pave way for rate hike

Jerome Powell, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, speaks during a House Financial Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021.

Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Retail sales are the last major economic report as central bankers on Wednesday head into the final day of their two-day December meeting. The Fed’s expected accelerated tapering could set the stage for its first hike in Covid-era near-zero interest rates. The central bank is also likely to provide a new description of how it views inflation, acknowledging it no longer sees inflation as transitory. The market will also be watching for any hints about when the Fed might start shrinking its $8.7 trillion balance sheet.

4. Biden expected to sign debt ceiling increase ahead of deadline

WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 10: U.S. President Joe Biden delivers closing remarks for the White House’s virtual Summit For Democracy in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on December 10, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Chip Somodevilla | Getty Images News | Getty Images

House Democrats passed a debt ceiling increase with one Republican vote, sending the measure to President Joe Biden early Wednesday. He’s expected to sign it just hours before the Treasury Department forecasts it would exhaust its tools to pay the government’s bills, an outcome that would upend the U.S. economy. The Senate, also controlled by Democrats, approved the increase to the nation’s borrowing limit along party lines Tuesday afternoon. Once signed, the resolution would raise the debt ceiling by $2.5 trillion, probably enough to get through next year’s midterm election.

5. CDC says delta still dominant but omicron spreading quickly

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia.

Tami Chappell | Reuters

The Covid omicron variant, first detected in southern Africa about a month ago, now makes up about 3% of cases sequenced in the U.S., according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While delta remains the dominant strain in the U.S., the CDC said that the highly mutated omicron variant is spreading quickly. Responding to a Washington Post report about a possible “massive wave” of omicron infections as soon as January, the CDC said in a statement that the scenario described was among several discussed at a regularly scheduled meeting with public health officials.

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