Wall Street eyes lower open on inflation concerns, Fed speakers in focus

Wall Street’s main indexes were set to open lower on Thursday as weaker-than-expected jobless claims data added to concerns about sticky inflation, while investors awaited comments from key Federal Reserve officials later in the day.

Denting sentiment further, Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) dropped 3.5% in premarket trading amid news that China has widened curbs on the use of iPhones by state employees, requiring staff at some central government agencies to stop using their mobile phones at work.

Bloomberg on Thursday reported that China planned to broaden the iPhone ban to state firms and agencies.

Shares of Apple suppliers including Skyworks Solutions (NASDAQ:SWKS), Qualcomm (NASDAQ:QCOM) and Qorvo (NASDAQ:QRVO) also slid between 2% and 3.1%.

Stoking worries about interest rates staying elevated for longer, a Labor Department report showed the number of Americans filing for unemployment claims stood at 216,000 for the week ended Sept. 2, compared with estimates of 234,000 claims.

“The number came in a little bit better than expected, so we see a little bit of a negative reaction to the futures,” said Robert Pavlik, senior portfolio manager at Dakota Wealth in Fairfield, Connecticut.

“If you’re invested in stocks you want the economy to slow but not collapse, so any strength in the economy will lead people to believe that the Fed is going to raise interest rate in September possibly.”

Traders’ bets on the Fed leaving interest rates unchanged in September stood at 91%, while their odds for a pause in the November meeting were at 51.6%, down from nearly 59% a week ago, according to the CME Group’s (NASDAQ:CME) FedWatch Tool.

Wall Street’s three major stock indexes closed lower on Wednesday with the Nasdaq’s 1% loss leading declines after stronger-than-expected services sector data fueled concerns that persistent inflation could lead to interest rates staying higher for longer.

Further denting sentiment, data showed China’s exports and imports fell in August, with sagging overseas demand and weak consumer spending hitting businesses in the world’s second-largest economy.

Shares of U.S. listed Chinese firms including PDD Holdings, JD (NASDAQ:JD).com, Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) and Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) fell between 3.2% and 4.2%.

Investors await comments from at least six Fed speakers, including policy voting members Philadelphia Fed President Patrick Harker, Vice Chair and New York Fed President John Williams, due to speak later in the day.

At 8:46 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 85 points, or 0.25%, S&P 500 e-minis were down 32.5 points, or 0.73%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 191.5 points, or 1.24%.

Automation software firm UiPath added 1.4% premarket on an upbeat annual revenue forecast after it topped estimates for second-quarter results.

WestRock (NYSE:WRK) jumped 6.0% after European rival Smurfit Kappa disclosed it was in merger talks with the paper and packaging firm.