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Wall St reverses losses as focus turns to Fed minutes

2023-01-04T11:46:37Z

(Reuters) -Wall Street’s main indexes reversed early losses on Wednesday, as investors looked past a set of economic data, with focus squarely on the Federal Reserve’s December meeting minutes for clues on the outlook for interest rates.

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FILE PHOTO: A street sign for Wall Street is seen outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, New York, U.S., July 19, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly/File Photo

Minutes from the Fed’s previous meeting, when it raised interest rates by half a percentage point and cautioned rates may need to remain higher for longer, are due at 2 p.m. ET (1900 GMT).

The minutes could show the central bank’s internal deliberations entering a new phase where risks to economic growth and employment are given more standing, while curbing high inflation remains the top priority.

“What you’ll hear is the Fed needs to continue to hold the line and fight inflation … there’ll be some back and forth between various members about where the terminal rate should land,” said Darrell Cronk, chief investment officer at Wells Fargo Wealth & Investment Management.

U.S. job openings in November indicated a tight labor market, giving the Fed cover to stick to its monetary tightening campaign for longer, while other data showed manufacturing contracted further in December.

Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari on Wednesday stressed the need for continued rate hikes, setting out his own forecast that the policy rate should initially pause at 5.4%.

U.S. equities were pummeled in 2022 on worries of a recession due to aggressive monetary policy tightening, with the three main stock indexes logging their steepest annual losses since 2008.

Market participants see a 66.7% chance of a 25-basis point rate hike from the Fed in February, and see rates peaking at 4.98% by June.

Apple Inc and Tesla Inc bounced back from a searing drop in the previous session and rose 2.3% and 5.0%, respectively.

“People repositioning their portfolios for this year is leading the market to see these gains … people are stepping into names that really underperformed last year,” said Robert Pavlik, senior portfolio manager at Dakota Wealth Management.

Meanwhile, Microsoft Corp dropped 4.3% following a downgrade by brokerage UBS on worries over slowing growth for its cloud services and Office suite.

Consumer discretionary and financial stocks led the gains among the major S&P 500 sector indexes.

At 11:52 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 241.58 points, or 0.73%, at 33,377.95, the S&P 500 was up 44.63 points, or 1.17%, at 3,868.77, and the Nasdaq Composite was up 117.59 points, or 1.13%, at 10,504.58.

Salesforce Inc gained 3.4% on the enterprise software firm’s workforce reduction plans.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners for a 6.25-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 3.55-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded two new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 58 new highs and 39 new lows.