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U.S. stock futures were slightly lower Thursday morning, one day after a whipsaw session on Wall Street as traders digested the Federal Reserve's moves. Dow futures implied an opening decline Thursday of around 115 points. Futures tied to the S&P 500 and Nasdaq also were in the red.
After Wednesday's strong rally, the major U.S. stock indexes are on pace for their best weekly performance of the year. The Dow finished higher by 519 points, or 1.55%, shaking off an intraday move into negative territory as investors processed the Fed's policy outlook. The 30-stock average is riding a three-day win streak for the first time since early February. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite have posted back-to-back positive days for the first time this month.
On Thursday before the bell, the Labor Department reported initial jobless claims fell to 214,000 for the week ended March 12, lower than the Dow Jones estimate of 220,000 and a sign the U.S. labor market was tightening further.
The Federal Reserve raised interest rates by a quarter percentage point Wednesday, its first hike since December 2018, as the U.S. central bank looks to tamp down historically high inflation. The Fed's policymaking arm indicated it sees additional rate increases at its six remaining meetings in 2022. That suggests a consensus funds rate by year-end of 1.9%. It also may start reducing its balance sheet in May, chief Jerome Powell said at a news conference, suggesting the process could have an impact equal to an additional rate hike. Central bankers' projections for inflation in 2022 rose, while they trimmed their GDP growth expectations to 2.8% from 4%.
Oil prices jumped Thursday, bucking a recent downward trend, in light of renewed supply concerns related to the Russia-Ukraine war. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude rose around 4.5% to trade above $99 per barrel, while international benchmark Brent crude advanced roughly 4.85% to nearly $103 per barrel. The move comes after the International Energy Agency warned that roughly 3 million barrels per day of Russian crude and refined products could be lost from oil markets in April. That would exceed the drop in demand higher oil prices are expected to cause. Earlier in March, WTI and Brent hit 14-year highs near $130 and $139 per barrel, respectively.
Elsewhere in commodity markets, the benchmark three-month nickel contract tumbled and reached its new limit down mark of 8%. Nickel futures on the London Metal Exchange have been extremely volatile this month, punctuated by a major short squeeze on March 8 that prompted changes to trading rules.
U.S. President Joe Biden labeled his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, a "war criminal" for Moscow's assault on Ukraine. It was the first time Biden has publicly referred to the Russian president by that term and, the Kremlin took issue. It said Biden's rhetoric was "unacceptable and unforgivable," according to Russian news agency Tass.
The Russia-Ukraine war has entered its fourth week. On Thursday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said the two sides were not close to reaching an agreement to end the fighting. There had been some more positive commentary surrounding peace talks in recent days. "Work continues — when there is progress, we will inform," Peskov said, according to an NBC News translation.
The Russian Ministry of Finance on Thursday claimed it had made a roughly $117 million interest payment on two dollar-denominated eurobonds, as Moscow seeks to avoid its first foreign currency debt default in more than a century. Russia has been hit with an onslaught of economic sanctions from the U.S. and other nations in response to its invasion of Ukraine; some sanctions have frozen the assets of Russia's central bank. The country's currency, the ruble, also has seen its value plunge against the dollar. The developments have stoked fears about Russia's ability to make interest payments on foreign currency debt.
— CNBC's Chloe Taylor contributed to this report.