Market Snapshot: U.S. stocks struggle for direction as investors wait for Fed decision
U.S. stocks struggled for direction on Wednesday, treading water near record levels ahead of the outcome of a Federal Reserve policy meeting.
How are stock-index futures trading?
The Dow Jones Industrial Average
fell 55.18 points, or 0.2%, to 35,997.45.
The S&P 500
was down 2.52 points, or 0.1%, at 4,628.13.
The Nasdaq Composite
ticked up 15.47 points, or 0.1%, to 15,665.07.
On Tuesday, the Dow closed above 36,000 for the first time, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite also closed at records. They were joined in record territory by the small-cap Russell 2000
which logged its first record finish since March 15.
What’s driving the market?
All three major benchmarks logged record closing highs for a third straight trading session on Tuesday, the first time that has happened since December 2019. Resilient corporate earnings, despite supply chain disruptions, higher commodity prices and the surge in coronavirus delta cases in the third quarter, have done much of the heavy lifting for stocks recently.
Investors are focused on the outcome of a two-day Fed meeting, where Chairman Jerome Powell and his colleagues are expected to confirm the start of a reduction in bond purchases. The announcement is due at 2 p.m. Eastern Time, followed by a news conference with Powell at 2:30 p.m.
“The QE [quantitative easing] taper announcement will likely be seamless, but what may be less seamless is the rate discussion. Now that the major central banks are shifting toward a more hawkish policy stance, except for Japan and the European Central Bank (ECB), there is a rising pressure on the Fed to start thinking about ‘thinking about’ raising rates,” said Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at Swissquote, in a note to clients.
“Mr. Powell is ideally not willing to touch U.S. interest rates until 2023, but if inflation proves stickier than he first thought, keeping the rates near zero would be a policy mistake that could cost him and the U.S. economy dearly,” said the analyst.
In U.S. economic data, privately run U.S. businesses created 571,000 new jobs in October, an ADP survey found. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had forecast a rise of 395,000.
The Institute for Supply Management’s closely watched services index for October jumped to a record 66.7% from 61.9% in September, surpassing expectations for a reading of 62%. A reading of more than 50% signals expanding activity.
“The surge in the index sends a positive signal about the post-delta economy, with the business activity and new orders components soaring by 7.5 and 6.2 points respectively, taking both to all-time highs…The bad news is that the supply-chain indicators — supplier delivery times, prices paid, and the order backlog — all materially worsened, with all three hitting new highs,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, in a note.
In the same vein, IHS Markit said its U.S. services sector purchasing managers index came in at 58.7 in October, up from 54.9 in September and above its earlier “flash” estimate of 58.2.
Elsewhere, the Caixin China services purchasing managers index showed robust growth was maintained in October, despite fresh outbreaks of Covid, as the index hit its highest level since July.
What companies are in focus?
Zillow Group Inc.
shares fell 18% after the real-estate giant late Tuesday pulled the plug on its home-flipping business and said it expected losses of more than $550 million on homes purchased in the second half of this year for which the company admits it paid too much.
Shares of Bed Bath & Beyond
climbed 25% after the retailer late Tuesday announced a partnership with grocery chain Kroger
The popular meme stock also said it was ahead of its share buyback schedule.
New York Times Co.
shares were down 4.5% after the newspaper group beat earnings estimates and offered upbeat guidance.
CVS Health Corp.
beat estimates by 19 cents with adjusted quarterly earnings of $1.97 per share and revenue beating Wall Street forecasts. The drugstore chain and pharmacy-benefits manager got a boost from increased demand for Covid testing and vaccinations. Shares rose 5.3%.
reported adjusted quarterly earnings of $4.83 per share, beating the estimate of $4.66, while revenue was a beat on strength in the health insurer’s Medicare Advantage business. Shares were up 1%.
Shares of Avis Budget Group Inc.
fell 17.7% after Wall Street downgrades that followed the 108% rise for shares of the car-rental company on Tuesday — a move attributed to a short squeeze fueled by a meme-stock frenzy.
How are other assets trading?
The yield on the 10-year Treasury note
rose 1.5 basis points to 1.56%. Yields and debt prices move in opposite directions.