Wall St. keeps modest gains as Fed stands pat on rates

Traders work on the floor of the American Stock Exchange (AMEX) at the NYSE in New York
Traders work on the floor of the American Stock Exchange (AMEX) at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, New York, U.S., October 27, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

November 1, 2017

By Lewis Krauskopf

(Reuters) – Wall Street held onto modest gains on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve kept interest rates unchanged, as major equity indexes hovered around record-high levels.

The U.S. central bank pointed to solid U.S. economic growth and a strengthening labor market while downplaying the impact of recent hurricanes, a sign it is on track to lift borrowing costs again in December.

The Fed has raised rates twice this year and currently forecasts one more hike by the end of 2017 as part of a tightening cycle that began in late 2015.

“I don’t think there is anything real surprising out of this,” said Randy Frederick, vice president of trading and derivatives for Charles Schwab in Austin.

“The comments on the economy were pretty good, talking about solid growth, strong labor market despite the hurricanes. I think those are all good things,” Frederick said. “I would say it pretty close to seals a December rate hike.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average <.DJI> rose 58.23 points, or 0.25 percent, to 23,435.47, the S&P 500 <.SPX> gained 5.28 points, or 0.21 percent, to 2,580.54 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> dropped 14.24 points, or 0.21 percent, to 6,713.43.

Energy <.SPNY> was the best-performing sector, rising 0.8 percent while telecoms <.SPLRCL> lagged the most.

Investors had all but ruled out a move at the U.S. central bank’s policy meeting this week with attention focused on who will be in charge of monetary policy at the end of Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s first term in February 2018.

President Donald Trump is set to announce his nomination on Thursday. Fed Governor Jerome Powell, who has supported Yellen’s gradual approach to raising rates, is viewed as relatively stock-market friendly and the likely choice.

“The pending announcement regarding the new chair seems to be overshadowing most everything,” said Michael Arone, chief investment strategist at State Street Global Advisors in Boston.

Developments at the Fed come as corporate earnings, which have supported the stock market’s run to record highs, are coming in generally above expectations for the third quarter.

With about two-thirds having reported, S&P 500 companies are on track to have earnings growth of 7 percent for the third quarter, up from 5.9 percent growth expected at the start of October, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

(Additional reporting by Saqib Iqbal Ahmed and Chuck Mikolajczak in New York, Lindsay Dunsmuir and Howard Schneider in Washington, Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila and Nick Zieminski)

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