December 17, 2014
S&P 500, Nasdaq end up as Fed in no rush to raise rates
The S&P 500 and Nasdaq ended higher today after the Federal Reserve gave a rosier assessment of the US economy while reaffirming that it is in no hurry to raise interest rates.
The US central bank also, as expected, reduced its monthly asset purchases to $25 billion from $35 billion.
Among the biggest positives were bank shares, with the S&P financial index up 0.4 percent, helping to support the S&P 500. Shares of Wells Fargo gained 1.1 percent to $52.10.
Biotechnology stocks boosted the Nasdaq for a second straight day. The Nasdaq biotech index was up 1 percent after Amgen Inc posted better-than-expected earnings and raised its outlook, sending its shares up 5.4 percent to $130.01.
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 31.75 points, or 0.19 percent, to 16,880.36, the S&P 500 gained 0.12 points, or 0.01 percent, to 1,970.07, and the Nasdaq Composite added 20.20 points, or 0.45 percent, to 4,462.90.
The S&P 500 had traded lower ahead of the Fed announcement.
Earlier today, government data showed gross domestic product grew at a 4 percent annualized rate in the second quarter, above the 3 percent rate that had been expected and a sharp reversal from the weather-impacted first quarter, when the economy contracted a revised 2.1 percent.
Separately, the ADP National Employment Report showed companies hired 218,000 workers in July, below analysts' projections of 230,000 and less than June's total.
Among other big gainers, Twitter Inc surged 20 percent to $46.30, its biggest ever one-day advance, after reporting that monthly active users rose a better-than-expected 24 percent in the second quarter.
Insurance stocks fell after Humana Inc, WellPoint Inc and Aflac Inc all reported lower earnings, though WellPoint's profit was above expectations.
About 6.2 billion shares changed hands on U.S. exchanges, above the 5.6 billion average for the month to date, according to data from BATS Global Markets.
European shares closed lower, as strong US growth failed to offset some weak earnings reports and concern the conflict between Russia and Ukraine will escalate.
Holcim's and HeidelbergCement's shares fell 4.8 percent and 2.8 percent respectively, leaving the STOXX Europe 600 constructions and materials index down 1.5 percent.
French electrical-gear maker Schneider Electric, down 4.3 percent, also blamed the depreciation of several currencies against the euro for disappointing sales growth in the first half of the year.
Companies in the STOXX Europe 600 that have reported quarterly results so far have seen their sales drop by an average 1 percent, StarMine data showed.
While stronger currencies in developed Europe played a role in the decline, some strategists were starting to worry about weaker demand in Europe, which is struggling with low growth and inflation.
The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 index closed 0.5 percent lower at 1,366.52 points after a choppy session.
The index extended losses in the afternoon as NATO said the number of Russian troops and weaponry along the border with Ukraine was increasing to "well over 12,000".
Fighting between Moscow-backed rebels and government troops has intensified since a Malaysian airliner was shot down earlier this month.
Japan's Nikkei share average rose for a fourth day in choppy trade, as strong corporate earnings led by Honda Motor Co and Tokyo Electron Ltd eclipsed weak industrial output data.
The Nikkei ended 0.2 percent higher to 15,646.23, the highest closing price since January 23.
The broader Topix gained 0.1 percent to 1,292.24, and the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 also advanced 0.1 percent, to 11,770.70.