CNBC Daily Open: Dashed hopes for March rate cuts

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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

Wall Street tumbles
U.S. stocks were sharply lower after Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank likely won't be ready to cut rates in March. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.82% and the S&P 500 was down 1.61%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite also lost 2.23%. Yields for the 10-year U.S. Treasury fell below the key 4% level as traders assessed the Fed's meeting.

Qualcomm tops estimates
Qualcomm's quarterly earnings topped estimates as sales of handset chips surged 16% year-on-year. The company said it shipped $6.69 billion in handset chips during the December quarter, up 16% from a year ago. It's a good sign for the smartphone market after two years of declines.  

Meta's fortunes
Meta's continued rally could be tied to the fortunes of low-cost retailers Temu and Shein. Both the Chinese online commerce companies, have been significant contributors to Meta's ad rebound, according to marketing veteran Victor Lee.

Disney lawsuit dismissed
A judge dismissed a lawsuit Disney filed against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis that alleged he retaliated against the company for publicly criticizing a controversial parental rights law the governor backed. Disney on Wednesday said it intends to appeal the ruling.

[PRO] Ether grabs limelight
Ether is set to take center stage in February after bitcoin and newly launched bitcoin exchange-traded funds grabbed crypto investors' attention in January. Both bitcoin and ether are on track to end the month up by 0.01%, according to Coin Metrics. 

The bottom line

Well, at least the Fed made one thing abundantly clear today. That rate cuts aren't coming so soon.

Some investors expected the central bank to start cutting interest rates as early as March. But Federal Reserve Chair Powell shot down that hope. 

"I would tell you that I don't think it's likely that the committee will reach a level of confidence by time of the March meeting to identify March is the time to do that," he said. "But that's to be seen."

″[March is] probably not the most likely case or what we would call the base case," he added.

Powell couldn't have been clearer and his cautious tone didn't go down well in Wall Street.

All the major indexes tanked on the news and the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield ticked below the key 4% level. 

Markets may have been further spooked by the lack of clarity from the Fed on the timing of when it could start cutting rates, with Powell saying it will depend on data.

"Of course, if labor, if inflation were to surprise by moving back up, we would have to respond to that and that would be a surprise at this point," he said.

"But I have to tell you that's why we keep our options open here and why we're not rushing," adding uncertainties linger and inflation risks could reaccelerate.  

The attention will now turn to Friday's job report as Wall Street continues to speculate on the Fed's next moves.   

 — CNBC's Jesse Pound and Tanaya Macheel contributed to this report.

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