Stock market today: Wall Street inches modestly higher; Walmart jumps on another strong quarter

Wall Street drifted slightly higher early Thursday a day after markets rallied on hints that inflation is subsiding.

Futures for the Dow Jones industrials and the S&P 500 each rose less than 0.1% before the bell.

The meme stock rollercoaster stretched into another day with AMC Entertainment and GameStop both falling more than 15% in premarket. Both companies are still up significantly from Friday’s close after their share prices more than doubled in a buying frenzy earlier this week.

Walmart jumped 4.5% after the nation’s largest retailer posted another quarter of strong results with sales and profit beating Wall Street forecasts.

Zurich-based Chubb continued to rally after Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway revealed a new $7 billion stake in the global insurer. Berkshire said Wednesday it held nearly 26 million Chubb shares at the end of March, giving it a 6.4% stake in the company.

Deere skidded 5.6% before markets opened after the company lowered its full-year profit forecast expecting farmers buy fewer tractors and other equipment due to declining crop prices.

Markets’ midweek optimism came from a report Wednesday showing U.S. consumers had to pay prices for gasoline, car insurance and everything else in April that were 3.4% higher overall than a year earlier, less than March’s inflation rate of 3.5%.

The slowdown was a relief after reports for the consumer price index, or CPI, earlier this year had consistently come in worse than expected. The report built on expectations that the Federal Reserve might cut its main interest rate this year, the major preoccupation for most investors.

Another report Wednesday showed no growth in spending at U.S. retailers in April from March.

Slowing retail sales could be seen as a positive for markets, because it could reduce the upward pressure on inflation. But weaker U.S. consumer spending would erode one of the main pillars keeping the economy out of a recession.

Traders are now forecasting a nearly 95% probability that the Fed cuts its main interest rate at least once this year, according to data from CME Group. That’s up from just below 90% a day before.

In Europe at midday, Germany’s DAX fell 0.2% and the CAC 40 in Paris lost 0.4%. Britain’s FTSE 100 was unchanged.

In Asian trading, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 index gained 1.4% to 38,920.26, even after the government reported that the Japanese economy contracted at a 2% annual rate in the January-March quarter.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 1.6% to 19,376.53. The Shanghai Composite index edged 0.1% higher, to 3,122.40.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 advanced 1.7% to 7,881.30 while South Korea’s Kospi climbed 0.8% to 2,753.00.

Taiwan’s Taiex was up 0.7% and the Sensex in India fell 0.4%.

In other trading early Thursday, U.S. benchmark crude oil ticked up 2 cents to $78.65 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 61 cents on Wednesday.

Brent crude, the international standard, was unchanged at $82.75 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar was stable at 154.88 Japanese yen. The euro fell to $1.0866 from $1.0885.

On Wednesday, the S&P 500 jumped 1.2% to top its prior high set a month and a half earlier, closing at 5,308.15. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.9% to 39,908.00, and the Nasdaq jumped 1.4% to 16,742.39, adding to its own record set a day earlier.