Wall Street ends higher in a choppy post-Fed trading

Reuters June 18 | Updated on January 24, 2018

US stocks had ended slightly higher on Wednesday following a choppy session after the Federal Reserve said the US economy is likely strong enough to withstand an interest rate hike later this year.

Even if a majority of Fed officials continue to see higher rates by the end of 2015, they expect rates to rise slightly less by the end of 2016 and 2017 than they did in their March forecasts.

That view on rates saw high-yielding stocks gain, with the S&P 500 utilities sector up 0.9 per cent after hitting on Tuesday its lowest since late September.

Stocks with higher dividend yields attract investors when there is an expectation that Treasury yields will fall, or in this case, remain relatively low.

"The Fed is talking about the labour market tightening somewhat, which seems to be a hint that it is a step closer to raising rates. At the same time, it seems like there was a notching down of the magnitude of rate hike expectations," said Nick Kalivas, senior equity product strategist at Invesco PowerShares in Downers Grove, Illinois.

"Those two things are what is causing stocks to go back and forth."

Volatile trading

Major indexes were volatile following the Fed statement. Stocks initially added to losses, then hit session highs as Fed Chair Janet Yellen spoke to the media in a follow-up to the statement. They lost more than half the day's gains at the close.

The S&P 500 has hovered near the 2,100 level for more than a month as sentiment shifts between hopes for a stronger economy and fears of the effect of rising rates coupled with high valuations.

At the closing bell on Wednesday, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 31.26 points or 0.17 per cent to 17,935.74, the S&P 500 gained 4.15 points or 0.2 per cent to 2,100.44 and the Nasdaq Composite added 9.33 points or 0.18 per cent to 5,064.88.

At its session high, the S&P had been up 0.5 per cent.

Adding to support for equities, investors have seen the proximity of rising rates as a trigger for more M&A activity, with mergers and acquisitions already at record levels.

Away from the Fed, FedEx fell 3 per cent to $176.73 after the package delivery firm reported a quarterly net loss.

Oracle shares fell nearly 7 per cent in after-hours trading after the enterprise software and computer hardware company missed revenue expectations.

During regular market hours, advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by 1,606 to 1,446, for a 1.11-to-1 ratio on the upside; on the Nasdaq, 1,441 issues fell and 1,301 advanced for a 1.11-to-1 ratio favouring decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 22 new 52-week highs and 3 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 145 new highs and 34 new lows.

About 6.1 billion shares changed hands on US exchanges, above the 5.94 billion daily average so far this month, according to BATS Global Markets.

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Published on June 18, 2015
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