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03/04/24 Briefing

US stocks slipped Wednesday morning as investors looked to a coming speech by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell for clues to whether interest rates will stay higher for longer.

The S&P 500 (^GSPC) fell about 0.1%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) teetered on both signs of the flatline. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC) led declines, down almost 0.4%, after the major gauges closed Tuesday in a sea of red.

Stocks have drifted away from their strong start to the year as robust economic data undermined hopes for three Fed rate cuts. Investors have scaled back their bets to the point where they expect a smaller, later easing than policymakers have projected.

Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic added to those concerns on Wednesday, telling CNBC he expects the Fed to make its first interest rate cut in the fourth quarter.

The focus is now on Powell, whose speech on the economic outlook later in the day will be weighed for hints to whether the Fed's June meeting will bring a policy pivot. Appearances by Michael Barr and other Fed officials will also be watched.

Eyes are also on who will win the bitter proxy battle between Disney and activist investor Nelson Peltz, with the results of a shareholder vote due later Wednesday. Signs are that Disney has secured enough backing to fend off the board shake-up put forward by Peltz's Trian, sources told Reuters.

In single-stock moves, Intel (INTC) shares fell around 5% after the chip company posted sharper operating losses at its foundry business.

Meanwhile, its rival TSMC (TSM) was forced to halt some chipmaking in the wake of a huge earthquake that hit Taiwan, raising concerns about the supplier to Apple (AAPL) and Nvidia (NVDA). Its US-listed shares dipped slightly.

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