Stock futures opened slightly higher Wednesday after a choppy trading session, with investors closely monitoring developments in Congress as lawmakers raced to come to an agreement to avert a government default by mid-month.
During the regular trading day, the three major equity averages had shaken off earlier losses after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered Democratic lawmakers a deal to temporarily extend the government borrowing limit into December. Such a move would offer time to prevent a government default that many pundits said could come as soon as around Oct. 18.
The issue of the debt ceiling has been a focal point for corporate leaders and market participants alike. Earlier Wednesday, President Joe Biden met with top business leaders including JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Nasdaq CEO Adena Friedman, who urged the president to press lawmakers to raise the debt limit and avert a government default they warned could have a catastrophic impact across the U.S. economy.
“The debt ceiling is one of many factors right now that we think are causing these gyrations in the markets. Certainly the market will take some comfort when there is a deal, when it is more formalized,” Yung-Yu Ma, chief investment strategist for BMO Wealth Management, told Yahoo Finance. “Our base case is this probably drags out a little bit longer, gets closer to that Oct. 18 deadline that Janet Yellen talked about.”
The ongoing debt ceiling debate has been just one of a number of concerns to the market in recent weeks, which have all come together to catalyze volatility across risk assets.
In addition to concerns over the debt limit, “markets are looking for some resolution, or at least an end in sight to the supply chain issues, the inflation pressures that are building,” Ma added. “The markets are also starting to look toward the November meeting of the Fed, and hoping that the Fed is not going to show excessive increases in future interest rates as well … So several things are going on.”
A spike in energy and commodity prices has also weighed on investor optimism, reinforcing the persistent trend in rising price pressures across the global economy. U.S. crude oil futures, however, fell for the first time in five days on Wednesday following a Financial Times report that U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm had not ruled out releasing crude oil from the government strategic petroleum reserve or banning crude exports to try and bring prices in check. West Texas intermediate crude oil had reached its highest price since 2014 earlier this week.
“If you look back historically during these types of environments, particularly in the face of the inflation that we’re seeing today, energy equities tend to perform the best. They’re one of the best hedges against inflation. I think that that’s likely to persist this time,” Troy Vincent, market analyst at DTN, told Yahoo Finance Live on Wednesday. “However, the difference between now and instances of the past is this focus on ESG investing – and that’s one of the major reasons that although you see energy commodity prices at or near record highs globally, they’re not actually seeing that equate to record high equity valuations for the energy companies around the world.”
6:05 p.m. ET Wednesday: Stock futures hold higher
Here’s where markets were trading Wednesday evening:
S&P 500 futures (ES=F): +3.5 points (+0.08%), to 4,357.5
Dow futures (YM=F): +25 points (+0.07%), to 34,316.00
Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): +15.5 points (+0.11%) to 14,774.50
Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter