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Stock futures dip after S&P 500 wraps up worst month since March 2020

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Stock futures declined in overnight trading Monday after Wall Street wrapped up a tumultuous month with steep losses as investors grappled with the Federal Reserve’s policy shift.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 80 points. S&P 500 futures and Nasdaq 100 futures both traded 0.3% lower.

While stocks pulled off a tech-driven rally Monday, major averages still suffered a brutal month marked by wild price swings. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite posted their worst months since March 2020 at the depth of the pandemic, down 5.3% and 8.9%, respectively. It was also the S&P 500’s biggest January decline since 2009. The blue-chip Dow declined 3.3% for the month.

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January’s sell-off came as the central bank signaled its readiness to tighten monetary policy, including raising interest rates multiple times this year, to tame inflation that has shot up to the highest level in nearly four decades. Investors flocked out of growth-oriented technology shares, which are particularly sensitive to rising rates.

Volatility exploded during the month as investors deciphered the Fed’s messaging on its policy pivot. At one point last week, the S&P 500 dipped into correction territory on an intraday basis, briefly down 10% from its record high. The recent comeback pushed the large-cap benchmark 6.3% below its peak. Meanwhile, the tech-heavy Nasdaq is still in a correction, last down 12% from its all-time high.

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Still, many Wall Street strategists are reminding investors that corrections are normal in bull markets. Since 1950, there have been 33 S&P 500 corrections of 10% or more since 1950, and the median episode has lasted about five months, according to Goldman Sachs.

“The latest decline is a normal market correction that does not signal a recession or the end of this bull market,” said Chris Haverland, global equity strategist at Wells Fargo. “We continue to believe that economic growth and corporate earnings will be solid this year, and that the Fed will not be overly aggressive in dialing back monetary policy.”

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This week a flurry of key companies are expected to report earnings, which could set the tone for the month of February. Exxon Mobil is slated to post numbers before the bell on Tuesday, while Alphabet, General Motors, Starbucks, AMD and PayPal will report after the bell.

So far, of the 172 companies in the S&P 500 that have reported earnings to date, 78.5% topped analysts’ estimates, according to Refinitiv.

“We still anticipate solid, albeit more modest, gains for markets this year, alongside more normal pullbacks, especially given the transition in monetary policy,” Keith Lerner, chief market strategist at Truist, said in a note.

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