Stocks hold onto gains after FOMC minutes

By Lucy Ren

Stocks rose Wednesday as minutes from last month’s Federal Reserve policy meeting revealed little that would change expectations on interest rates.

The minutes from the March 17-18 Federal Open Market Committee meeting showed that members were split on whether to begin raising interest rates in June or wait until later in the year.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 27.09, or 0.15 percent, to close at 17,902.51, marking the third day of gains out of the previous four trading days.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index closed at 2081.9, up 5.57 points. The Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 40.59, or 0.83 percent, to 4,950.82. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose 0.02 percentage point to 1.905 percent.

The S&P 500 rebounded to an intraday high after the release of FOMC minutes Wednesday afternoon, before closing at 2081.9. (Bloomberg, Lucy Ren/Medill)
The S&P 500 rebounded from the day’s low point after the 1 p.m. CDT release of FOMC minutes Wednesday. (Bloomberg)

Stocks in the energy sector declined by 1.03 percent largely due to weak oil prices. West Texas Intermediate crude oil fell by more than 5.5 percent to close at $50.98 Wednesday.

“The bottom line seems to be that the market is saying ‘this doesn’t tell us a whole lot that’s new about where the Fed believes where interest rates should go,’” said Nick Colas, chief market strategist at brokerage ConvergEx in New York. “They still see the same tug of war between those who want to raise rates and those who don’t.”

The March FOMC meeting did not take into account the disappointing March jobs report released last Friday. The minutes showed that almost half of the participants revised down their estimates of the longer-run level of the federal funds rate, which is the rate banks charge one another for overnight loans.

“The minutes still talk about June rate hikes being possible, whereas we now know that the market has already reacted in thinking that June is not as possible based on the jobs report,” said BBVA economist Kim Chase.

The minutes showed that 10 out of 12 participants at the March meeting expect a rate hike sometime this year. Chase said her company expects a September hike in the fed funds rate.

Colas said the next significant market hurdle is the coming wave of corporate earnings for the first quarter, which are expected to show the negative effects of a strong U.S. dollar.

Among the biggest movers Wednesday, Mylan NV, the global pharmaceuticals company that makes about 1,400 medications, offered to acquire Perrigo Co. for $28.9 billion, or $205 per share, sending Perrigo’s stock price up by 18.39 percent to $195. Shares of Mylan rose by 14.76 percent to $68.36.

Photo at top: Stocks on Wednesday were partially boosted by the March FOMC minutes. (Katrina Tuliao/Creative Commons)