US stocks notch modest gains as Fed leaves rates unchanged
Wall Street capped a wobbly day Wednesday with modest gains for stocks, snapping a two-day losing streak for the S&P 500.
The market shook off a mixed start after the Federal Reserve announced it is would be leaving interest rates unchanged this month and signaled that it expects to leave them alone in 2020.
The central bank had been expected to leave its benchmark interest rate unchanged this month after lowering it three times this year in a bid to shield the economy from slowing global growth and the fallout of U.S. trade conflicts.
Investor jitters over whether the U.S. and China will be able to avert a new escalation in their trade war has made for choppy trading this week, pulling major indexes lower.
Wall Street is hoping that both sides can avoid a new round of tariffs scheduled to kick in Sunday on Chinese goods that include phones, laptops and other popular products.
“We’re in a wait-and-see mode going into Friday to see if we have any more clarity on the trade tariffs that go into effect on Sunday,” said Keith Buchanan, portfolio manager at Globalt Investments. “The market is kind of sitting on its hands right now.”
The S&P 500 index gained 9.11 points, or 0.3%, to 3,141.63. The benchmark index is still on track for a slight weekly loss.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average bounced back after being slightly lower most of the day. It rose 29.58 points, or 0.1%, to 27,911.30. The Nasdaq added 37.87 points, or 0.4%, to 8,654.05.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks edged up 0.21 points, or less than 0.1%, to 1,631.93.
Despite the wobbly week in the market, the major indexes on track for strong gains this year. The Nasdaq is leading the way, with a gain of 30.4%. The S&P 500 is now up 25.3% and the Dow is up nearly 20%.
The Fed’s decision to stay put on rates this month leaves its benchmark rate, which influences many consumer and business loans, in a low range of 1.5% to 1.75%.
In a sign of the Fed’s confidence about the economy, its latest policy statement dropped a phrase it had previously used that referred to “uncertainties” surrounding the economic outlook. That suggests that the Fed is less worried about the impact of the U.S.-China trade war or overseas developments, and that it views the U.S. economy as generally healthy.
Technology and industrial stocks led the gains Wednesday. Skyworks Solutions climbed 4.7% and United Rentals rose 2.1%.
Banks and real estate companies lagged the market. U.S. Bancorp slid 1.2% and mall owner Simon Property Group lost 2.4%.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury slipped to 1.79% from 1.83% late Tuesday.
Some companies made big moves after releasing earnings reports. Ollie’s Bargain Outlet surged 15% after reporting surprisingly good third-quarter profit and revenue. GameStop plunged 15.1% after issuing a surprising loss and cutting its profit forecast.
Home Depot dropped 1.8% after giving investors a weak sales forecast.
Shares in American Eagle Outfitters slumped 6.5% after the clothing chain reported third-quarter results that were largely in line with Wall Street’s expectations, but noted it saw softer demand for certain apparel categories.
Chevron fell skidded 1.4% after the energy company warned investors about a potential charge of up to $11 billion because of lower long-term prices for oil and natural gas. The huge fourth-quarter write-down underscores the challenge posed by rising production that has prevented energy prices from increasing sharply during a time of increasing global demand.
Benchmark crude oil fell 48 cents to settle at $58.76 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, dropped 62 cents to close at $63.72 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline fell 2 cents to $1.63 per gallon. Heating oil climbed 4 cents to $1.93 per gallon. Natural gas fell 2 cents to $2.24 per 1,000 cubic feet.
Gold rose $6.80 to $1,469.40 per ounce, silver rose 14 cents to $16.74 per ounce and copper fell 2 cents to $2.78 per pound.
The dollar fell to 108.51 Japanese yen from 108.73 yen on Tuesday. The euro strengthened to $1.1140 from $1.1096.
Stock indexes in Europe closed broadly higher.
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