CNBC Daily Open: Fed signals just one rate cut

Brendan Mcdermid | Reuters
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during afternoon trading on April 2, 2024 in New York City.
Michael M. Santiago | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during afternoon trading on April 2, 2024 in New York City.

This report is from today's CNBC Daily Open, our international markets newsletter. CNBC Daily Open brings investors up to speed on everything they need to know, no matter where they are. Like what you see? You can subscribe here.

What you need to know today

One rate cut
The Federal Reserve signaled it expects to cut rates only once this year, down from the three quarter-point reductions projected in March. The Fed acknowledged there was "modest" progress toward its 2% inflation target. The new guidance came as it held interest rates steady, as was widely expected. Fed Chair Jerome Powell said the central bank does not yet have the confidence to start lowering interest rates, even after May's consumer price index came in cooler than expected on Wednesday. "We see today's report as progress and as, you know, building confidence," Powell said. "But we don't see ourselves as having the confidence that would warrant beginning to loosen policy at this time." 

More records
The S&P 500 closed above 5,400 for the first time as the Federal Reserve signaled one rate cut later this year and May's inflation data came in softer than expected. The Nasdaq Composite also hit an all-time high, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.1%. The yield on the 10-year Treasury dropped 7 basis points to 4.33% as the Fed said it was making "modest" progress on inflation. U.S. oil prices rose as investors bet supplies would tighten later this year. 

Top spot
After briefly trailing Nvidia in market capitalization, Apple has reclaimed its position as the world's most valuable company, overtaking Microsoft. This resurgence comes after Apple unveiled its aggressive push into artificial intelligence, which sparked investor enthusiasm. As of 10:45 a.m. ET, Apple's market cap soared to $3.3 trillion, edging out Microsoft's $3.2 trillion valuation. But by the close of trading Microsoft had regained its slight edge over Apple. Leading financial institutions like Morgan Stanley, Evercore and Bank of America have echoed this optimism, predicting that Apple's AI advancements will drive a surge in new iPhone sales. 

Cashing in
GameStop shares plunged on Wednesday, coinciding with a surge in trading volume of call options possibly owned by "Roaring Kitty." Over 93,000 contracts with the same strike price and expiration as Keith Gill's holdings were traded, far exceeding the 30-day average. While it's unclear if Gill was behind the sales, speculation suggests he may have been unwinding his position to avoid needing a large cash outlay to exercise the options by June 21. Wall Street is closely monitoring Gill's actions due to their potential impact on GameStop's stock price.

China EVs power up Hong Kong

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 0.54% after the European Union slapped tariffs on electric vehicle imports. "The move is modest compared with the stiff 100% tariffs on Chinese EV imports into the U.S.," said Vincent Sun, equity analyst at Morningstar, in a Wednesday note. EV makers BYD, Geely, Nio and Li Auto all made strong gains. Mainland China's CSI 300 index, however, fell 0.43%. Elsewhere, Japan's Nikkei 225 inched 0.1% lower, giving up earlier gains, ahead of a Bank of Japan interest rate decision on Friday. South Korea's Kospi and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 were both trading higher, while the Taiwan Weighted index hit another record high.

[PRO] AI's next bottleneck
While chipmakers and hyperscalers bask in the limelight of AI's infrastructure boom, savvy investors are already eyeing the next bottleneck: networking. Large language models and other AI applications demand high bandwidth and low latency, creating a lucrative opportunity for those who can provide the robust networks required for AI's future. 

The bottom line

Despite the Federal Reserve holding interest rates and forecasting only one cut for the remainder of 2024, Lazard's chief market strategist Ronald Temple anticipates further reductions. He advises investors, "Don't take too much direction from today's FOMC 'dot plot.' As upcoming inflation and labor reports confirm easing price pressures and labor market tightness, I expect FOMC members to reassess their forecasts to include more rate cuts by year-end."

Fed Chair Jerome Powell echoed Temple's sentiment, saying May's strong jobs data might be slightly "overstated," indicating revisions could be on the way. "...There's an argument that they may be a bit overstated, but still, they're strong," Powell said, referring to U.S. payroll reports. "We see gradual cooling, gradual moving toward better balance." 

With the Fed and inflation data out of the way, the next big event for investors is whether shareholders will approve Elon Musk's $56 billion pay deal today. The problem for Musk, even if he gets his way, is that he's facing numerous lawsuits. 

Many large investors who, back in 2018, voted against the compensation package have said they'll do the same again. CalPERS,  CalSTRSNorway's $1.7 trillion sovereign wealth fund and advisory groups ISS and Glass Lewis are against the proposal, but he does have his backers

The Delaware court, in voiding the original deal, highlighted concerns about the remuneration committee's independence. Tesla's chair, Robyn Denholm, for instance, cashed in $280 million in stock, while others on the committee had deep-rooted business or personal ties to Musk. 

Further raising eyebrows, Musk asked his former divorce lawyer, Todd Maron, who was also drafting the compensation package, to arrange a call with a dissenting shareholder to "convince them to divest from Tesla and any of [his] companies." 

While some fear Musk might abandon Tesla, the court deemed this unlikely. 

 Gordon Johnson, CEO of GLJ Research, offered a different perspective to CNBC: "Musk had long ago mentally checked out of Tesla. But he's not going to leave. He's going to do what he has done for years. He's going to milk Tesla to support his other businesses."

 Employees' Retirement System of Rhode Island (ERSRI) filed a lawsuit on Tuesday accusing Musk of making billions of dollars by selling Tesla shares using insider information. It's similar to another lawsuit accusing Musk of insider trading when he sold $7.5 billion in stock.

 ERSRI's lawsuit says Musk has been disloyal towards Tesla by diverting employees to work for X. And here's the crux of what some big investors and the Delaware court have been saying: Tesla's board of directors independence from Musk is "questionable." 

 However, Musk posted on X his gratitude to shareholders who have already voted to approve his pay package and move Tesla's legal home to Texas "by wide margins." The results will be announced at a meeting at Tesla's headquarters in Texas at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday.

 — CNBC's Jeff Cox, Lisa Kailai Han, Pia Singh, Alex Harring, Spencer Kimball, Yun Li, Rohan Goswami, Sean Conlon, Lim Hui Jie, Sheila Chiang and Sarah Min contributed to this report.

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