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Health insurers set to drag Wall Street lower

Published 02/04/2024, 09:24 pm
Updated 03/04/2024, 12:09 am
© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Nasdaq Market site is seen on the day that shares of Truth Social and Trump Media & Technology Group start trading under the ticker "DJT", outside the Nasdaq Market site in New York City, U.S., March 26, 2024.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/Fil

By Sruthi Shankar and Shashwat Chauhan

(Reuters) -Wall Street was set to open lower on Tuesday, hurt by sharp losses in health insurers and ahead of comments from Federal Reserve policymakers and more economic data that could offer hints on the timing of interest rate cuts.

Shares of UnitedHealth (NYSE:UNH), CVS Health (NYSE:CVS) and Humana (NYSE:HUM) fell between 4.6% and 10.7% in premarket trading as the U.S. government kept reimbursement rates for providers of Medicare Advantage health plans unchanged, signaling potential pressure on insurers' margins next year.

The blue-chip Dow and the benchmark S&P 500 looked to extend losses, a day after stronger-than-expected manufacturing data from the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) raised doubts over the Fed's three interest rate cuts that it had outlined at the last policy meeting.

"We had that upside surprise with the ISM and now people are getting a little bit worried about another strong number this Friday in terms of jobs," said David Russell, global head of market strategy at TradeStation.

Investors main focus is on Friday's U.S. non-farm payrolls data that is likely to show job additions slowed in March although average earnings ticked higher compared to the previous month.

New data on factory orders and job openings in February is also expected on Tuesday.

"The idea of three cuts this year... that's sort of what people are concerned about this week," Russell said.

Traders are pricing in a near 57% chance of the Fed cutting interest rates by at least 25 basis points in June, as well as see two more cuts in 2024, as per CMEGroup's FedWatch tool.

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A host of Fed officials including New York Fed President John Williams, Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester and San Francisco President Mary Daly are scheduled to speak later in the day.

At 8:32 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 228 points, or 0.57%, S&P 500 e-minis were down 21.25 points, or 0.4%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 85.5 points, or 0.46%.

The subdued start to the new quarter comes on the heels of the S&P 500's strongest first quarter in five years. The three major indexes hit record highs last month, helped by optimism around artificial intelligence and expectations of easing monetary policy.

Most megacap growth stocks were trading lower, with Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) down 1.0% ahead of the release of its first-quarter delivery numbers.

Calvin Klein-parent PVH Corp (NYSE:PVH)'s shares tumbled 22.7% after the retailer forecast an about 11% drop in first-quarter revenue. Peer Ralph Lauren (NYSE:RL) lost 4.0%.

Cryptocurrency and blockchain-related stocks dropped, tracking an over 5% fall in bitcoin. Exchange operator Coinbase (NASDAQ:COIN), bitcoin investor MicroStrategy and crypto miner Riot Platforms (NASDAQ:RIOT) fell between 3.6% and 7.1%.

Estee Lauder (NYSE:EL) gained 1.9% after Citigroup upgraded the cosmetics giant's rating to "buy" from "neutral".

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