U.S. stock-market indexes were flat to slightly higher on Wednesday as investors awaited a decision from the Federal Reserve, which is widely expected to increase rates by a quarter of a percentage point and offer details on path forward for monetary policy.
What did are markets doing?
The S&P 500
rose 2 points, or 0.1%, to 2,788, with six of the 11 main sectors trading lower. Telecoms shares were among the worst hit, with the sector down nearly 4%.
The Nasdaq Composite
added 22 points, or 0.3%, to 7,727 and set an intraday record at 7,735.00.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average
was trading fractionally higher, up 8 points 25,329.
Wednesday’s muted moves follow a pattern of small gains amid low volatility. The Cboe Volatility Index
is trading at about 12, near its lowest levels of the year.
The Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks
which closed at an all-time high, was down fractionally.
What’s driving the market?
While investors continue to monitor any potential fallout from the meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, attention moved squarely toward the conclusion of the Fed’s two-day meeting on Wednesday.
A statement from the central bank is due at 2 p.m. Eastern Time, followed by a press conference with Chairman Jerome Powell at 2:30 p.m. Eastern.
Investors have priced in expectations that the Fed will lift the federal-funds rate to a range between 1.75% to 2%, from 1.5% to 1.75%, marking the second rate hike this year and the seventh move since the start of the tightening cycle in December of 2015. The central bank’s updated “dot-plot”, a chart of the projections for interest rates of Fed members, also will offer a clearer outline for how many rate hikes may be in the offing in coming months and years, which holds significance for the broader market because it can influence the strength of the dollar and the degree by which borrowing costs increase over time. Higher rates and a stronger dollar can contribute to how investors value stocks and other assets.
Looking ahead, European Central Bank policy makers are expected on Thursday to announce the timing for unwinding bond buying, while the Bank of Japan will release its policy decision on Friday.
A measure of wholesale inflation jumped 0.5% in May, against the backdrop of rising oil prices, adding upward pressure on inflation in a steadily growing economy marked by supply bottlenecks and a growing shortages of skilled labor.
What are strategists saying?
“The Fed has telegraphed its rate decision so well, that very few people expect any surprises,” said Shannon Sacoccia, chief investment officer at Boston Private Wealth.
“So far there has been very little negative reaction to the strong jobs report and inflation data, which suggests that investors don’t expect the Fed to be aggressive. Of course, any sign of hawkishness in the statement could hit the market,” Saccocia said.
“The immediate market reaction [to the Fed] is likely to colored by whether the median forecast in the dot plot moves to four hikes this year. We think it will, but would caution against reading too much into this measure which is always prone to discrete jumps,” said Adam Cole, chief currency strategist at RBC Capital Markets, in a note.
“We don’t anticipate dramatic changes in the characterization of economic growth or inflation in the press statement,” Cole added.
What stocks could be active?
H&R Block Inc.
shares plunged 19%, adding to sharp loss late Tuesday even as the tax-preparation company posted a first-quarter earnings beat and lifted its dividend.
Shares of AT&T Inc.
lost 4.7% after falling almost 3% in Tuesday’s extended session, while Time Warner Inc.
jumped 3% after Tuesday’s court ruling that AT&T can go ahead with its nearly $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner.
And 21st Century Fox Inc.
surged 7%, as that ruling will likely give the media group the go-ahead to sell some of its TV and movie assets. Fox has agreed to a $52.4 billion all-stock deal with Walt Disney Co.
whose shares slipped 1.4%. However, rival Comcast Corp.
is expected announce a rival bid $60 billion all-cash bid as soon as Wednesday. Comcast shares fell 3.5%.
Pivotal Software Inc.
shares jumped 5% after the cloud-software company issued an earnings beat in its first report since an April initial public offering. Chief Executive Officer Rob Mee told MarketWatch in an interview that the company is focused on subscription revenue.
What are other markets doing?
The ICE U.S. Dollar Index
which measures the buck against six rivals, was off by 0.1% at 93.747.
Asian stocks were mixed, while European stocks
started to find slightly higher footing.
Crude-oil futures were moving lower, with July West Texas Intermediate crude
down 0.6% at $65.94. Gold futures
slipped 0.1% to $1,297.60 an ounce, after tapping a high near $1,305 during the session.