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Stocks climb as Fed minutes show determination on rates

·4-min read
FILE - In this Nov. 5, 2020 file photo, a sign for Wall Street is carved in the side of a building, in New York. Stocks are opening broadly higher on Wall Street Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, as the market regains a more solid footing following its biggest weekly drop since June. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
The Standard & Poor's 500, the Dow Jones industrial average and the Nasdaq composite are on pace for weekly gains. (Associated Press)

Stocks ended broadly higher on Wall Street on Wednesday after minutes from the Federal Reserve’s most recent meeting signaled the central bank intends to move “expeditiously” to raise interest rates back to more neutral levels in its fight to tame inflation.

The Standard & Poor's 500 index rose 0.9%, while the Dow Jones industrial average gained 0.6%. The Nasdaq composite climbed 1.5%. The indexes, which recovered after being in the red in the early going, are on pace for weekly gains, despite more up-and-down trading this week.

The minutes from the Fed meeting this month show most of the officials agreed that half-point increases to the Fed’s benchmark short-term rate “would likely be appropriate” at the central bank’s next two meetings, in June and July. Such an increase would be double the usual hike.

The central bank has begun raising interest rates in a bid to stamp out the highest inflation in four decades, so traders are keen to gain fresh insight into Fed officials’ thinking. Still, the Fed minutes didn’t reveal any major surprises.

“The market’s showing a relatively muted reaction to what was already embedded in the public sphere,” said Bill Northey, senior investment director at U.S. Bank Wealth Management.

The S&P 500 rose 37.25 points to 3,978.73. The Dow added 191.66 points to close at 32,120.28. The Nasdaq increased 170.29 points to 11,434.74.

Small-company stocks rose far more than the rest of the market, a sign of bullishness on the economy. The Russell 2000 gained 34.34 points, or 2%, to close at 1,799.16.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which helps set mortgage rates, slipped to 2.75% from 2.76% late Tuesday.

The broader market remains volatile, with investors on edge because of rising inflation and its effects on businesses and consumers. Investors are also concerned about the Fed’s aggressive plan to raise interest rates to fight inflation and hope the Fed won’t act so aggressively to slow the economy as to cause a recession.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February added even more pressure to already rising energy costs, making inflation worse for both businesses and consumers. Supply chains became even tighter over the last month as China locked down several major cities to fight rising cases of COVID-19.

“The overarching theme, especially for the past few weeks, is that investors are increasingly cautious on growth and the economic outlook,” said Jason Draho, head of asset allocation for the Americas at UBS Global Wealth Management. “It’s one of the big reasons why you’re seeing the inability for the stock market to get any kind of momentum.”

At the May 3-4 meeting, the Fed raised its key interest rate by half a percentage point, its most aggressive move since 2000. It also signaled further large rate increases to come. To tame inflation, the Fed wants to cool spending and economic growth by making it more expensive for individuals and businesses to borrow.

The minutes revealed that many of the policymakers agreed that after a rapid series of rate increases in the coming months, they could “assess the effects” of their rate hikes and, depending on the economy’s health, adjust their policies.

The economy has showed more signs of slowing, and financial markets have dropped sharply, since the Fed meeting.

The S&P 500 gained ground Monday but slipped again Tuesday, dragged down by more losses in the technology sector. The S&P 500 is coming off a seven-week losing streak that came close to ending the bull market for stocks that began in March 2020.

Retailers had some of the strongest gains after getting beaten down in recent days over concerns that soaring inflation was eating into their profits. Some of those concerns dissipated after the high-end department store operator Nordstrom reported higher sales and raised its profit forecast. It’s stock jumped 14%.

Technology stocks also helped lift the market. Microsoft rose 1.1%.

Several companies made strong gains after reporting solid financial results and giving investors upbeat forecasts, despite grappling with persistently rising inflation.

TurboTax software maker Intuit rose 8.2% after raising its profit and revenue forecasts for the year. Caleres, the owner of Famous Footwear, surged 29.9% after also raising its profit forecasts for the year.

Home builder Toll Bros. rose 8% after reporting strong profits just a day after that sector stumbled amid a disappointing government report on newly built home sales.

Wendy’s jumped 9.8% after Trian Fund Management, which already owns 19% of the company, said it was considering buying the rest.

European markets were higher and Asian markets closed mostly higher.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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