Stocks Close Higher After FOMC Minutes Signal Cautious Approach To Rate Hikes

by Ike Obudulu Posted on January 10th, 2019

New York City, USA : Stocks fluctuated over the course of the trading session on Wednesday but largely maintained a positive bias on the day. With the upward move, the major averages closed higher for the fourth consecutive session.

The major averages ended the day firmly in positive territory but off their highs of the session. The Dow climbed 91.67 points or 0.4 percent to 23,879.12, the Nasdaq advanced 60.08 points or 0.9 percent to 6,957.08 and the S&P 500 rose 10.55 points or 0.4 percent to 2,584.96.

The markets continued to benefit from optimism about a potential trade deal between the U.S. and China after talks between U.S. and Chinese officials were extended to a third day.

Officials have not made public comments about the outcome of the talks, although traders remain hopeful the U.S. and China will reach a long-term trade agreement before a March 1st deadline.

Stocks remained mostly positive after the minutes of the latest Federal Reserve meeting confirmed Fed Chairman Jerome Powell’s recent remarks suggesting the central bank will take a patient approach to further interest rate increases.

The minutes of the Fed’s December meeting said participants saw the appropriate extent and timing of future rate hikes as less clear than earlier, said.

The Fed decided to raise rates by a quarter point at the meeting, but the minutes suggest volatility in financial markets and increased concerns about global economic growth have clouded the outlook for rates.

“Against this backdrop, many participants expressed the view that, especially in an environment of muted inflation pressures, the Committee could afford to be patient about further policy firming,” the minutes said.

A number of participants noted it was important for the FOMC to assess the impact of increasingly pronounced risks and the effects of past rate hikes before making further changes to the stance of monetary policy.

The patient approach espoused by the minutes is similar to remarks Powell made during a joint discussion with former Fed Chairs Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke last Friday.

Sector News

Benefiting from a sharp increase by the price of crude oil, oil service stocks showed a substantial move to the upside over the course of the trading session.

Reflecting the strength in the sector, the Philadelphia Oil Service Index soared by 2.7 percent to its best closing level in almost a month.

The rally by oil service stocks came as crude oil for February delivery skyrocketed $2.58 to $52.36 a barrel following the release of a report showing a smaller than expected weekly drop in crude oil inventories.

Housing stocks also saw considerable strength on the day, resulting in a 2.6 percent spike by the Philadelphia Housing Sector Index. The index ended the session at a one-month closing high.

Significant strength was also visible among semiconductor stocks, as reflected by the 2.5 percent jump by the Philadelphia Semiconductor Index.

Skyworks Solutions (SWKS) posted a strong gain even though the maker of high-performance analog semiconductors lowered its fiscal first quarter guidance due to unit weakness across its largest smartphone customers.

Steel, computer hardware, and transportation stocks also moved notably higher, while telecom stocks moved to the downside.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region moved mostly higher during trading on Wednesday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index jumped by 1.1 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index soared by 2.3 percent.

The major European markets also moved to the upside on the day. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index climbed 0.7 percent, the German DAX Index and the French CAC 40 Index both advanced by 0.8 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries showed a lack of direction for much of the session before closing modestly lower. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, inched up by 1.2 basis points to 2.728 percent.

Looking Ahead

Remarks by Powell at the Economic Club of Washington are likely to attract attention on Thursday along with a report on weekly jobless claims.

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