Stocks traded lower on Monday, with the S&P 500 steadying below last week’s record level as traders awaited a Federal Reserve monetary policy decision later this week.
The three major indexes declined. U.S. crude oil prices dipped to trade near $71 per barrel. Treasury yields fell across the long end of the curve, and the benchmark 10-year yield held below 1.5%. Bitcoin prices ticked down to trade below $48,000.
Shares of heavily weighted U.S. equity index component Apple (AAPL) added to gains to set a fresh all-time intraday high. The stock’s market capitalization inched near $3 trillion, and was within 2% of this level as of Friday’s close.
Investors’ focus this week will be on the Federal Reserve’s December policy-setting meeting, which will take place between Tuesday and Wednesday. A new monetary policy statement and press conference with Fed Chair Jerome Powell are due mid-week, alongside the Fed’s updated Summary of Economic Projections charting out individual members’ outlooks for economic conditions and interest rates. Policymakers for other central banks are also set to meet this week, including those from the Bank of England and European Central Bank.
The Fed’s decision has taken on additional significance as the market attempts to predict how policymakers will weigh persistently elevated inflation against the specter of a fresh wave of the coronavirus with the newly discovered Omicron variant. U.S. inflation rose at its fastest pace since 1982 in November, last week’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) showed, pointing to the ongoing mismatch between supply and demand in the recovering economy.
On the virus front, the Omicron variant has so far been detected in 30 states, according to data compiled by the New York Times. Early data so far have suggested the variant is more transmissible than the earlier Delta variant, but may cause less severe disease and be able to be neutralized by a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Pfizer. On Monday, the World Health Organization said the Omicron variant remains a “very high” global risk, while underscoring that data on the severity of the disease is still limited.
But against the backdrop of inflation and a firming economic recovery, the Fed is expected to announce an acceleration of its asset purchase tapering process at the close of this week’s meeting, dialing back one of the central bank’s key tools that had helped support the economy during the pandemic.
“Both equity and fixed-income markets appear to be pricing the coming Fed tightening,” David Kostin, Goldman Sachs chief U.S. equity strategist, wrote in a note.
The firm expects the Fed to double the pace of tapering at this week’s meeting, bringing the Fed’s monthly drawdown of Treasuries and agency mortgage-backed securities purchases to $30 billion per month versus the current rate of $15 billion.
“Historical experience suggest equity valuations are typically flat around the first Fed hike,” Kostin added. “Moreover, some of the longest duration and highest valuation stocks plunged during the past month, suggesting that equity market pricing of Fed tightening is also under way.”
11:17 a.m. ET: USPS expects 2.3 billion pieces of mail to be delivered this week in busiest of the season
The U.S. Postal Service announced Monday that it expects 2.3 billion pieces of mail to be delivered during the week of Dec. 13, underscoring the heightened demand for shopping and shipping this holiday season. The USPS estimate includes both greeting cards and packages.
“Since Dec. 6, customer traffic at all Post Office locations has been steadily increasing,” the USPS said in a press statement. “But this week is expected to be the busiest week of the holiday mailing and shipping season.”
Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, an estimated 850 million to 950 million packages are expected to be delivered in total, USPS said.
10:03 a.m. ET: Apple hits intraday record, closes in on $3 trillion market capitalization
Shares of Apple gained in intraday trading, bucking the downward trend of the broader market to come within striking distance of a $3 trillion market capitalization. At session highs, shares of Apple were trading at $181.80, or about 0.6% from the share price that would bring its market cap to the $3 trillion milestone.
The iPhone-maker had become the first U.S. company ever to reach a $2 trillion market cap in August 2020. Peer technology giant Microsoft has also since rocketed to a more than $2 trillion valuation.
Shares of Apple have gained more than 36% so far for the year-to-date, outperforming the S&P 500’s about 24.9% gain over that period. This comes on top of Apple’s 81% gain in 2020.
9:33 a.m. ET: Stocks open slightly lower
Here’s where markets were trading just after the opening bell:
S&P 500 (^GSPC): -5.26 (-0.11%) to 4,706.76
Dow (^DJI): -5.26 (-0.08%) to 35,943.90
Nasdaq (^IXIC): -35.94 (-0.23%) to 15,591.80
Crude (CL=F): -$0.44 (-0.61%) to $71.23 a barrel
Gold (GC=F): +$1.90 (+0.11%) to $1,786.70 per ounce
10-year Treasury (^TNX): -4.1 bps to yield 1.448%
7:44 a.m. ET Monday: Stock futures head higher
Here were the main moves in markets ahead of the opening bell on Monday:
S&P 500 futures (ES=F): +10 points (+0.21%), to 4,721.00
Dow futures (YM=F): +18 points (+0.05%), to 35,985.00
Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): +64.5 points (+0.39%) to 16,394.25
Crude (CL=F): -$0.69 (-0.96%) to $70.98 a barrel
Gold (GC=F): +$5.60 (+0.31%) to $1,790.40 per ounce
10-year Treasury (^TNX): -1.7 bps to yield 1.472%
Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter