U.S. stocks score fourth day of gains after Fed minutes, wholesale inflation data

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U.S. stock indexes closed higher Wednesday, as traders digested minutes from the Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting and data from the September producer-price index, which showed a measure of wholesale prices rose more than expected.

How stocks traded

  • The S&P 500
    ended up 18.71 points or 0.4% to 4,376.95

  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average
    rose 65.57 points or 0.2% to end at 33,804.87

  • The Nasdaq Composite
    finished 96.83 points or 0.7% higher to 13659.68.

  • The Dow rose 2% over the last four trading days, the largest 4-day percentage advance since August 30, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

On Tuesday, the Dow industrials rose 134.65 points, or 0.4%, to end at 33,739.30. The S&P 500 gained 22.58 points, or 0.5%, to finish at 4,358.24 and the Nasdaq Composite gained 78.60 points, or 0.6%, to close at 13,562.84.

What drove markets

U.S. stocks finished higher Wednesday, after minutes of the Federal Reserve’s September policy meeting show that officials were “highly uncertain” about the future path of the economy and decided to proceed in a careful meeting-by-meeting approach to interest-rate policy.

“A vast majority of participants continued to judge the future path of the economy as highly uncertain,” the minutes said.

See: Fed minutes show officials wary about the outlook and wanting to move carefully

“Echoing the recent message of data dependence, it would be difficult to argue that the minutes were notably hawkish or dovish,” analysts at Capital Economics wrote in a Wedesnday note.

“Although they confirmed that ‘a majority of participants judged that one more increase in the target federal funds rate at a future meeting would likely be appropriate,’ that was far from a unanimous view,” the analysts noted.  

Fed Governor Christopher Waller said Wednesday that tighter financial conditions are set to do some of the central bank’s work for it.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury
continued to retreat from the 16-year highs reached last week, off 5.8 basis points on Wednesday to around 4.596%, while the yield on the 2-year Treasury
advanced 2.1 basis points, at 5.003%, according to Dow Jones market data.

Meanwhile, the latest wholesale inflation report showed the September producer-price index increased 0.5% for the month, bolstered by higher energy costs. That was down slightly from a 0.7% increase in August, but above the Dow Jones consensus of a 0.3% gain. The core PPI, which strips out food, energy and trade services components, rose 0.2% in September, in line with expectations.

The U.S. consumer price index report for September will be published before Thursday’s opening bell on Wall Street.

See: Producer price inflation comes in a little hotter in September, highest annual rate in five months

Gregory Daco, chief economist at EY, said he is not concerned about the PPI inflation trajectory despite “the energy bump in the road.”

“While the disinflationary impulse from easing supply chain strains is largely over, the all-important PPI for trade services — a proxy for margins — has shown significant disinflation which should in turn feed into lower consumer price inflation,” he said in emailed comments on Wednesday.

See: 10-year Treasury yield falls further to two-week low despite hot producer price inflation

To have a more sustainable reversal toward a 4% 10-year Treasury yield, signs of a bona fide consumer-led slowdown need to emerge, which may get the Fed to eventually drop the “higher-for-longer” interest-rate narrative, said Thierry Wizman, global FX and interest rates strategist at Macquarie.

“Watch Q4 guidance from consumer companies for the first rumblings of a consumer slowdown,” he added.

Traders also were awaiting the start of the third-quarter company earnings reporting season, which gets in full swing when banks that include JPMorgan Chase
and Wells Fargo
deliver their numbers on Friday.

See: Q3 earnings are here: S&P 500 heads toward year of profit declines as JPMorgan, and Delta report this week

Companies in focus

  • Exxon Mobil
    closed 3.6% lower on Wednesday after the company reached an agreement to purchase shale-drilling company Pioneer Natural Resources 
    for $59.5 billion in stock. Shares of Pioneer Natural Resources rose 0.9%.

  • DaVita Inc.
    a dialysis-services provider, plunged 16.7% and the U.S.-listed shares of Fresenius Medical Care 
    declined 17.6% after the trial success of Novo Nordisk’s hit drug against kidney failure sent shares of kidney dialysis services firms plummeting.

— Jamie Chisholm contributed

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