Stock futures inch higher after S&P 500 marks another record close

Futures contracts tied to the major U.S. stock indexes ticked higher at the start of the overnight session Wednesday evening, suggesting that Wall Street could extend gains that have propelled the S&P 500 to record levels this week.

Futures tied to the broad equity index rose about 0.1%, while Nasdaq 100 contracts added a similar 0.1%. Dow futures rose 20 points.

The moves in extended trading came after a late-day pop in the S&P 500 pushed it to 4,079.95, a new closing high. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 16 points, or 0.1%, during the regular session.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite dipped 0.1% even as Big Tech stocks outperformed. Amazon, Apple and Alphabet all climbed more than 1%, while Facebook jumped 2.2%.

Both the Dow and S&P 500 notched record closes on Monday.

Investors appeared pacified during Wednesday's session by the Fed's latest meeting minutes, which showed that officials plan to keep the pace of asset purchases the same for some time as the central bank works to support stable prices and maximum employment.

To Evercore ISI equity strategist Dennis DeBusschere, the market is not completely convinced that robust economic growth and inflation will not force the central bank's hand sooner.

"The market is forecasting that the Fed will have to raise rates way before they are saying they will," he said in an email. "The question is if the Fed raises rates before inflation has moved above 2% for some time."

If they stick to their plan, yield curves will steepen as growth outlook improves and the unemployment rate falls, DeBusschere added. "It is about OUTCOMES."

President Joe Biden spoke on Wednesday from Washington about his administration's $2 trillion infrastructure plan that includes a corporate tax rate hike to 28% and noted that he is willing to negotiate on the proposed tax increase.

The proposed increase to the corporate tax is thought to be a key source of tax revenue for the White House infrastructure plan and is a non-starter for Republicans, who say they are concerned about tax increases as the U.S. economy emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Separately, the Treasury Department said that Biden's tax proposals would generate about $2.5 trillion over 15 years in an effort to pay for eight years of spending on roads, bridges, transit, broadband and other projects.

Fiscal support is considered a key driver of the past month's equity records and strong economic data, including a stronger-than-expected March jobs report. The S&P 500, Dow industrials and Nasdaq Composite are all coming off their fourth straight quarter of gains as the economic recovery from Covid-19 accelerates.

On Thursday, investors will pore over the Labor Department's latest update on the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits for the first time. Economists polled by Dow Jones expect first-time claims to total 694,000 during the week ended April 3.

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