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Wall St dips as investors await inflation data

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U.S. Q4 economic growth revised slightly lower

Bumble slumps after downbeat quarterly revenue forecast

UnitedHealth drops after report of antitrust probe

Indexes down: Dow 0.26%, S&P 0.17%, Nasdaq 0.47%

Updated at 2:24 p.m. ET/ 1924 GMT

By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK, Feb 28 (Reuters) - U.S. stocks fell modestly on Wednesday, a day ahead of a key inflation reading that could heavily shape expectations for the timing of an interest rate cut from the Federal Reserve.

The personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index, the Fed's preferred inflation gauge, is expected toshow prices ticked 0.3% higher ona monthly basis in January.

Stocks have struggled to retain upward momentum in recent days leadingup to the data after a lengthy rally that peaked last week,fueled by enthusiasm aroundthe potential for artificial intelligence (AI) after Nvidia NVDA.O reported quarterly earnings.

Evidence of stubborn inflation in recent data on consumer and producer prices, a resilient U.S. economy, and commentary from some Fed officials have caused the market to dial back expectations for the Fed's first cut to June from March.

"Now that those earnings catalysts are behind us in the rearview mirror there could be some softness as now the market has to get its arms around the inflation trajectory and the Federal Reserve's reaction, whether it's with rhetoric or a higher-for-longer policy," said Keith Buchanan, senior portfolio manager at GLOBALT Investments in Atlanta.

"Any embers or symptoms of resurgence in pockets, or in aggregate, of inflation will definitely be taken pretty harshly by the markets."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 99.67 points, or 0.26%, to 38,872.74, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 8.50 points, or 0.17%, at 5,069.64 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped75.97 points, or 0.47%, to 15,959.33.

Data on Wednesday confirmed the U.S. economy grew at a solid clip in the fourth quarter onstrong consumer spending but it appears to have lost some speed early in 2024.

In addition to the PCE data, reports for weekly initial joblessclaims and manufacturing activity are due this week and will also help gauge the strength of the economy andpath of interest rates.

Boston Fed Bank President Susan Collins said on Wednesdaythe Fed should be "taking time" to assess data before making any change to policy in order to be sure to deliver on both of the central bank's mandates of maximum employment and price stability.

In addition, New York Federal Reserve President John Williams said that even as there is still some distance to cover in achieving the Fed's 2% inflation target, the door is opening to rate cuts this year depending on how the data come in.

UnitedHealth UNH.N fell 4.93% as the biggest drag on the Dow and second largest on the S&P 500 after areport on Tuesday said the U.S. Department of Justice has launched an antitrust investigation into the healthcare conglomerate.

Semiconductor equipment supplier Applied Materials AMAT.O lost 2.74% following a subpoena from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in February.

Beyond Meat BYND.O surged 39.89% as the plant-based meat makerplaced its bets on price hikes and steep cost cuts to turn around its battered margins, triggering a squeeze on its highly shorted shares.

Major cryptocurrency firm Coinbase Global COIN.O rose 2.03% and peer Marathon Digital MARA.O climbed 2.54% asbitcoin surged past $61,000.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers by a 1.03-to-1 ratio on the NYSE while on the Nasdaq, declining issues outnumbered advancers by about a 1.52-to-1 ratio.

The S&P 500 posted 63 new 52-week highs and one new low while the Nasdaq recorded 166 new highs and 79 new lows.

US gross domestic product https://reut.rs/3wANkZy

Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by Richard Chang


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