Futures are lower

Stock futures were in the red ahead of the start of the trading session on Thursday.

Near 7:40 a.m. ET, Dow futures were down 49 points, S&P 500 futures were down 6 points, and Nasdaq futures were down 18 points — all by less than 0.5%.

Caterpillar shares were down 3% after the machinery giant put out a bearish first-quarter outlook.

After the Fed decided to hold rates steady and lower its forecast for rate hikes this year on Wednesday, stocks spiked. They closed higher, with the Dow gaining 74 points and the S&P 500 up 0.5%.

Some of the commentary out of Wall Street this morning is noting that the Fed was more dovish than expected. Besides the expected rate hold, the Fed lowered its expectations for inflation and growth.

Here’s Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s takeaway, from a note Wednesday (emphasis ours):

The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) not only did not hike today as widely expected, but it put a more dovish spin on its communications: modest downward revisions to near-term forecasts, retaining language about global and financial risks, continuing to monitor inflation and, most notably, dropping the likely number of rate hikes this year down to just two, from four, in the December Summary of Economic Projections (SEP).

This dovish tilt is a bit of a surprise to us, given how the data — particularly on inflation — have shown signs of improvement of late. An April hike seems rather unlikely after today’s meeting, but we are comfortable with our expectation for the next hike in June, followed by December this year.

And so the Fed’s meeting could stay top of investors’ minds in today’s trading session, as well as a couple of key economic data points.

At 8:30 a.m. ET, we’ll get weekly initial jobless claims and the Philly Fed’s business outlook. Then due at 10 a.m. is the Job Openings and Labour Turnover Survey (JOLTS) that Yellen likes as a labour-market indicator.

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