U.S. stock futures were pointing to a steady Wall Street open Wednesday ahead of the conclusion of the Federal Reserve's final monetary policy meeting of the year. The Fed, which has cut interest rates three times in 2019 to stave off any economic slowdown, concludes its December two-day gathering Wednesday afternoon. No change in rates is expected, but the Fed will release its rate forecast and latest economic projections. Traders and investors will also be listening closely to Fed Chairman Jerome Powell's 2:30 p.m. ET news conference. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq closed lower Tuesday for the second straight session. The stock market was buffeted by will-they-or-won't-they delay headlines surrounding Sunday's deadline for new U.S. tariffs against Chinese goods as the "phase one" trade deal that was announced in principle in October remained elusive.
Powell's thoughts on persistently low inflation will be a hot topic Wednesday afternoon. One hour before the stock market opens at 9:30 a.m. ET, the government said its consumer price index for November rose a greater-than-expected 0.3% at an annual rate of 2.1%. November core CPI, excluding food and energy prices, was up 0.2%, matching estimates and running at a 2.3% annual rate. The Fed tracks a different indicator, the personal consumption expenditures price index, for its 2.0% inflation target. Core PCE data for November, which is expected later this month, came in at a 1.6% annual rate in October.
Saudi Aramco, the world's largest initial public offering, surged past expectations as it debuted on the kingdom's stock exchange on Wednesday. Shares of the state-owned oil company soared 10%, hitting their daily limit. The IPO gives Aramco a valuation of $1.88 trillion and makes it the largest publicly listed company in the world, ahead of Apple's nearly $1.19 trillion market capitalization and Microsoft's $1.15 trillion value. Aramco's public debut, which listed 1.5% of its shares locally on the Saudi Tadawul, is the biggest on record, topping the $25 billion Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba raised on the New York Stock Exchange when it went public in 2014.
A former Boeing employee who raised concerns about 737 Max production will testify on Wednesday at a House hearing on the FAA's review of the grounded aircraft. The entire 737 Max fleet was pulled out of service worldwide in mid-March, days after the second of two deadly crashes involving the jet. The first crash happened only five months earlier. Edward Pierson, who had worked as a senior operations manager in the flight test and evaluation unit, told NBC News this week that he warned Boeing of problems at the factory that makes the 737 Max. In a statement, Boeing defended its handling of Pierson's attempts to draw attention to the plant, saying his concerns "received scrutiny at the highest levels of the company."
This year is on track to see the highest number of CEO departures on record. In November alone, 148 chief executives left their posts, according to business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Alphabet, United Airlines and Expedia are just a few of the companies that lost CEOs in recent weeks. "Several factors are contributing to the high rate of CEO turnover. One is a strong economy, and high demand for C-level skills are attracting CEOs to new positions. Another is the ongoing uncertainty surrounding trade and regulations while emerging technologies continue to disrupt almost every industry," said Andrew Challenger. Through last month, 1,480 chief executives left their companies in 2019.