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Fri. 9:06 a.m.: Wall St. modestly higher ahead of consumer spending report

A currency trader watches monitors today at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea. Asian stocks have sunk again after German inflation spiked higher, British Prime Minister Liz Truss defended a tax-cut plan that rattled investors and Chinese manufacturing weakened. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Wall Street pointed toward small gains before the open early this morning after investors got more ominous inflation data from Europe as they waited for a U.S. government report on consumer spending.

Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average were 0.1 percent higher and futures for the S&P 500 rose 0.3 percent after the benchmark fell to its lowest level in almost two years on Thursday.

Wall Street will turn its attention today to a consumer spending report from the Commerce Department that could give some insight on the most recent inflation levels.

Last month’s report showed that consumer prices rose 6.3 percent in July from a year earlier after posting an annual increase of 6.8 percent in June, the biggest jump since 1982. Falling energy prices helped ease bring prices down in July, raising hopes that the surging costs of everything from gasoline to food may have peaked.

There is some lingering hope that the Fed might signal a moderation in rate increases if inflation were to show further signs of easing.

In the United States, the Commerce Department’s personal consumption expenditures (PCE) index is less well known than the Labor Department’s consumer price index (CPI).

But the Fed prefers the PCE index as a gauge of inflationary pressures, partly because the Commerce index attempts to measure how consumers adjust to rising prices by, for example, substituting cheaper store brands for pricier name brands.

Shares of Dow component Nike Inc. slid 11 percent in premarket trading after the footwear and apparel company reported late Thursday that inventories swelled 44 percent from a year ago.

Global stocks were mixed today after a report showed that inflation in the 19 countries that use Europe’s euro currency spiked to a record and data from China said that factory activity weakened there.

Inflation in Germany, France and other euro zone countries accelerated to 10 percent in September from the previous month’s 9.1 percent, the statistics agency Eurostat reported. That was the highest since record keeping for the euro began in 1997.

Investors increasingly worry the global economy might tip into recession following aggressive interest rate hikes this year by the U.S. Fed and central banks in Europe and Asia to cool inflation that is at multi-decade highs.

Markets slid this week after British Prime Minister Liz Truss announced plans for tax cuts that investors worry will push inflation higher. Meanwhile, global export demand is weakening and Russia’s attack on Ukraine has disrupted oil and gas markets.

“We’d be inclined to argue that we haven’t yet seen the bottom,” ING economists said in a report.

On Thursday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said the world’s fourth-biggest economy faces a “double whammy” from inflation and surging energy prices.

In midday trading, the FTSE 100 in London rose 0.2 percent and Frankfurt’s DAX advanced 0.3 percent. The CAC 40 in Paris added 0.6 percent.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 fell 2.1 percent to its lowest level in almost two years after strong U.S. jobs data reinforced expectations the Federal Reserve will stick to plans for more interest rate hikes.

The Dow slid 1.5 percent and the Nasdaq composite lost 2.8 percent.

In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.6 percent to 3,024.39 after surveys of manufacturers showed factory production, new export orders and manufacturing employment declined in September.

The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo fell 1.8 percent to 25,937.21 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong gained 0.5 percent to 17,257.08. The Kospi in Seoul lost 0.7 percent to 2,155.49.

Sydney’s S&P ASX 200 sank 1.2 percent to 6,474.20 while India’s Sensex advanced 1.8 percent to 57,421.45. New Zealand and Southeast Asian markets declined.

Stock markets and the value of the British pound rebounded Wednesday after the Bank of England said it would buy government bonds to support their price. But markets resumed their slide Thursday after Truss shrugged off criticism and defended her tax-cut plan despite a plea from the International Monetary Fund to reverse course.

The S&P 500 is on track to end September with an 8 percent loss for the month. It is down more than 20 percent for the year as investors wait for a break in inflation that has prompted the Fed to raise interest rates five times.

The yield on a two-year U.S. Treasury, or the difference between its market price and the payout at maturity, widened briefly to 4.2 percent before coming back down to 4.16 percent Thursday morning from Wednesday’s 4.14 percent.

Stronger-than-expected U.S. employment data Thursday reinforced expectations the Fed will feel comfortable sticking to plans to raise interest rates further and keep them elevated through next year.

In China, surveys of manufacturers by business news magazine Caixin and an official industry group found production and new export orders declined. That was in line with expectations that a Chinese manufacturing boom would fade due to weak global demand.

“The downturn in external demand looks set to deepen,” Zichun Huang of Capital Economics said in a report.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude gained 27 cents to $81.50 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 92 cents Thursday to $81.23. Brent crude, used to price international oils, picked up 21 cents to $87.39 per barrel in London. It lost 83 cents the previous session to $88.49.

The dollar inched up to 144.55 yen from Thursday’s 144.43 yen. The euro fell back to 97.62 cents from 97.90 cents.

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