Tech sector leads US stocks higher as Fed signals rate cut

FILE - In this June 18, 2019, file photo specialist Dilip Patel works at his post on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. The U.S. stock market opens at 9:30 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, July 10. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

Stocks finished higher Wednesday as Wall Street welcomed new signals suggesting the Federal Reserve is ready to cut interest rates for the first time in a decade.

Technology stocks drove much of the gains, nudging the Nasdaq composite to an all-time high. The benchmark S&P 500 index briefly traded above 3,000 for the first time before pulling back to just below its most recent record high a week ago.

The market climbed early on after Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said that many Fed officials believe a weakening global economy and rising trade tensions have strengthened the case for a rate cut.

Powell’s remarks, which he delivered as part of his semi-annual monetary report to Congress, allayed investors’ concerns that an unexpectedly strong U.S. jobs report on Friday might give the Fed reason to stay put on interest rates.

“Investors are increasingly confident that the Fed will cut rates by a quarter-point at the end of the month, which most investors expected,” said Kate Warne, chief investment strategist at Edward Jones. “This removed a little bit of the uncertainty there, and that’s why we’re seeing stocks move higher.”

The S&P 500 index rose 13.44 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,993.07. The index, which set three record highs last week, is now less than 0.1 percent below its all-time high set last Wednesday.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 76.71 points, or 0.3 percent, to 26,860.20.

The Nasdaq climbed 60.80 points, or 0.7 percent, to 8,202.53, a record. It’s previous record high was also set last Wednesday.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks rebounded from a brief slide, gaining 2.46 points, or 0.2 percent, to 1,565.05.

Major stock indexes in Europe closed mostly lower. The dollar fell and the price of gold rose.

The U.S. stock market rallied through much of June after the Fed first signaled that it might cut rates if necessary to shore up the U.S. economy.

Powell’s testimony before the House Financial Services Committee on Wednesday came at a time when the U.S. economic landscape is mixed. While the job market appears resilient and consumer spending and home sales look solid, the economy is likely slowing. And the U.S. trade disputes have added uncertainty to the economic outlook.

The Fed’s benchmark rate currently stands in a range of 2.25 percent to 2.5 percent after the central bank raised rates four times last year. Many investors have put the odds of a rate cut this month at 100 percent.

A quarter-point cut in interest rates, which many investors expect, isn’t likely to have a big impact on consumers’ credit cards or mortgage rates. But it would reassure markets that the Fed would be open to further rate cuts if more signs of weakness in the global economy emerge, Warne said.

Investors will have to wait until the end of the month to see what action the Fed takes on interest rates at its next meeting of policymakers. Before then, however, the market will turn its attention to the upcoming company earnings reporting season, which begins next week.

Companies have been lowering expectations for how much profit they made in the April-June quarter. Wall Street now projects that overall S&P 500 company earnings for the quarter fell 2.6 percent from a year earlier, according to FactSet. As recently as the end of March, earnings were forecast to be down only 0.5 percent.

This could be the first time in three years that S&P 500 companies report a back-to-back decline in overall earnings.

Technology companies accounted for much of the market’s gains Wednesday. Micron Technology climbed 3.7 percent and Western Digital rose 5 percent. Communications services stocks and consumer goods makers also rose. Take-Two Interactive added 1.8 percent and PepsiCo picked up 2 percent.

Energy stocks also rose as the price of U.S. crude oil climbed 4.5 percent. Chevron rose 1.7 percent.

Bond prices rose sharply, sending the yield in the 10-year Treasury note down to 2.06 percent from 2.10 percent shortly before Powell’s remarks were released.

The drop in yields pulled bank shares lower. When bond yields decline they drive the interest rates that lenders charge for mortgages and other loans lower. Citizens Financial Group dropped 2.8 percent.

Industrials and materials stocks also lagged the market. Deere & Co. slid 1.6 percent and Corteva lost 1.8 percent.

Shares in WD-40 climbed 8.5 percent after the seller of lubricants delivered fiscal third-quarter earnings and revenue that exceeded analysts’ expectations.

Levi Strauss slumped 12 percent after the jeans maker’s latest quarterly report card showed its profit margins fell due to higher costs.

Energy futures closed broadly higher Wednesday.

Benchmark crude oil rose $2.60 to settle at $60.43 a barrel, the highest level since late May. Brent crude oil, the international standard, gained $2.85 to close at $67.01 a barrel. Wholesale gasoline added 8 cents to $2.01 per gallon. Heating oil climbed 8 cents to $1.99 per gallon. Natural gas picked up 1 cent to $2.44 per 1,000 cubic feet.

Gold rose $12.60 to $1,410.10 per ounce, silver added 8 cents to $15.15 per ounce and copper gained 7 cents to $2.69 per pound.

The dollar fell to 108.42 Japanese yen from 108.89 yen on Tuesday.

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(1) comment


This recession is just killing my portfolio. Good ole MSM, hope no one was following their advice

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