December 14, 2017
Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wall Street edges lower as Fed minutes offer few clues on rates

US stocks edged lower as minutes from the most recent Federal Reserve meeting gave investors few new clues as to when US interest rates may rise.

The S&P 500 snapped a two-day streak of record closing highs.

Minutes of the US central bank's Oct. 28-29 meeting, where policymakers decided to finally end their bond-buying stimulus, indicated a debate among policymakers over the outlook for inflation and the economy.

Following the release of the minutes, US short-term interest-rate futures traders were still betting on a first Fed rate hike by September next year.

Tech names were among the biggest drags on the market, with the Nasdaq underperforming both the Dow and S&P 500. Shares of Microsoft fell 1.1 percent to $48.22 and shares of Qualcomm eased 2.1 percent to $70.47. Qualcomm on Wednesday gave a more conservative five-year outlook than in the past.

Among the S&P 500's biggest positives, Target Corp rose 7.4 percent to $72.50 and Lowe's rose 6.4 percent to $62.26, both after results.

The Dow Jones industrial average fell 2.09 points, or 0.01 percent, to 17,685.73, the S&P 500 lost 3.08 points, or 0.15 percent, to 2,048.72 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 26.73 points, or 0.57 percent, to 4,675.71.

Earlier, Goldman Sachs analysts said the Fed, once it begins to tighten monetary policy, would raise short-term interest rates faster and to higher levels than current market expectations.

Oplink Communications shares jumped 13.8 percent to $24.18. It is being purchased by Koch Optics, a subsidiary of privately-help Koch Industries, for about $445 million.

Among other big movers, shares of JetBlue Airways rose 4.1 percent to $13.25 after it said it will charge certain customers for their first checked bag.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by 1,899 to 1,176, for a 1.61-to-1 ratio on the downside; on the Nasdaq, 1,937 issues fell and 765 advanced for a 2.53-to-1 ratio favoring decliners.

About 5.8 billion shares changed hands on US exchanges, compared with the 6.4 billion average for the month to date, according to data from BATS Global Markets.

The benchmark S&P 500 index posted 30 new 52-week highs and three new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 42 new highs and 74 new lows.

European shares ended flat after hitting a seven-week high earlier on, with investors trading cautiously ahead of minutes from the most recent Federal Reserve policy meeting.

The market also faced pressure from a sharp decline in mining shares after China's iron ore futures dropped nearly 5 percent to a record low. That pushed down spot prices, which have slumped to their weakest in more than five years on a supply glut.

The STOXX Europe Basic Resources index fell 1.6 percent, the worst sectoral performer in Europe, while both Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton shed more than 2 percent.

The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 share index ended flat at 1,359.88 points, after climbing to a seven-week high earlier in the session with the help of some positive broker upgrades. But gains evaporated later as focus shifted to the Fed minutes.

Meanwhile, Japanese stocks turned lower as investors booked profits as they took stock of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's decision to delay a sales tax hike, and the challenges policy makers continue to face to re-energise a tottering economy.

The Nikkei benchmark closed down 0.3 percent at 17,288.75, reversing slim gains in the morning session. Market participants said a wait-and-see mood ahead of a press conference by Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda encouraged profit taking.

Kuroda told reporters that the economy is likely to continue to grow above potential, but added that the BOJ will adjust its economic projections by assessing the growth trends.

Earlier today the BOJ kept monetary policy unchanged, as expected, saying that although weak points remain, the Japanese economy is recovering moderately.

Mobile phone carrier Softbank shed 1.6 percent, and clothes brand Uniqlo owner Fast Retailing closed down 1.2 percent. Sony Corp lost 1.5 percent.

The broader Topix closed up 0.1 percent at 1,396.54 after scaling an eight-year peak in the morning session, while the JPX-Nikkei Index 400 added 0.2 percent to 12,750.82.

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Tags:  Stocks  shares  FTSEurofirst  Nikkei  US  Dow Jones  

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