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Wall Street futures inch up on rate-cut bets

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(Reuters) – U.S. stock index futures edged higher on Wednesday as investors strengthened bets on an earlier start to rate cuts by the Federal Reserve this year than previously expected, after a string of economic data pointed to slowing economic growth.

Wall Street ended Tuesday’s session slightly higher, paring some losses, with rate-sensitive real estate stocks leading sector gains.

That came on the heels of initial losses after data showed U.S. job openings in April fell to their lowest in more than three years, the latest economic report to suggest growth in the world’s largest economy is cooling. This allows the Federal Reserve more room to cut interest rates.

Markets are now pricing in about 44 basis points of easing this year. Additionally, expectations for a September rate reduction now stand around 65%, versus below 50% last week, according to the CME’s FedWatch tool.

“The JOLTS report follows a string of soft economic data releases and suggests a gradual cooling in the US economy… market participants are likely to welcome a cooling economy and the prospect of monetary easing, given the overwhelmingly bullish outlook among investors,” analysts at BCA Research said in a note.

Signs of steady inflation and resilient economic growth had forced markets to dial back hopes for both the timing and pace of interest-rate cuts at the start of the year, when many expected policy easing to begin as early as March.

Rate-sensitive megacap stocks rose in premarket trading, with Nvidia (NASDAQ:NVDA), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) up between 0.4% and 1.6%.

Investors now await the nonfarm payrolls report, due on Friday, which will provide a more complete picture of the labor market. The ADP National Employment report, as well as surveys on the services sector, are expected later on Wednesday.

At 5:57 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were up 44 points, or 0.11%, S&P 500 e-minis were up 10.5 points, or 0.20%, and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were up 82.5 points, or 0.44%.

Among individual movers, budget retailer Dollar Tree (NASDAQ:DLTR) rose 2.2% after a report that the company plans to explore options that include a potential sale or spin-off of Family Dollar.

Intel (NASDAQ:INTC) gained 1.0% after buyout firm Apollo Global Management (NYSE:APO) agreed to purchase a 49% equity interest for $11 billion in a joint venture related to the chipmaker’s Ireland manufacturing unit.

CrowdStrike Holdings (NASDAQ:CRWD) jumped 7.4% after forecasting second-quarter revenue above estimates when markets closed on Tuesday, helped by strong demand for its cybersecurity offerings.

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