The major U.S. stock indexes moved in opposite directions early in the session on Wednesday and continue to turn in a mixed performance in afternoon trading.
Currently, the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 are well off their highs of the session but holding on to modest gains. The Nasdaq is up 17.36 points or 0.1 percent at 13,590.68 and the S&P 500 is up 4.43 points or 0.1 percent at 4,373.44.
The narrower Dow is pulling back off yesterday’s four-month closing high, however, with the blue chip index down 164.49 points or 0.5 percent at 34,047.61.
The mixed performance on Wall Street comes as traders look ahead to the Federal Reserve’s highly anticipated monetary policy announcement this afternoon.
While the Fed is widely expected to leave interest rates unchanged, traders will pay close attention to the accompanying statement for clues about the outlook for rates.
CME Group’s FedWatch Tool is currently indicating a 96.6 percent chance the Fed will leave rates unchanged today but a 56.6 percent chance of another quarter point rate hike in July.
Potentially generating some optimism about the outlook for rates, the Labor Department released a report showing producer prices in the U.S. decreased by more than expected in the month of May.
The Labor Department said its producer price index for final demand fell by 0.3 percent in May after inching up by 0.2 percent in April. Economists had expected producer prices to edge down by 0.1 percent.
The report also showed the annual rate of producer price growth slowed to 1.1 percent in May from 2.3 percent in April. The rate of growth was expected to decelerate to 1.5 percent.
A separate report released by the Labor Department on Tuesday showed the annual rate of consumer price growth slowed to a two-year low in May.
Meanwhile, a steep drop by shares of UnitedHealth (UNH) is weighing on the Dow, with the managed healthcare and insurance company plunging by 7.3 percent.
UnitedHealth is under pressure after saying seniors are undergoing surgeries delayed during the pandemic, leading to higher costs.
Most of the major sectors are showing only modest moves on the day, contributing to the lackluster performance by the broader markets.
Airline stocks continue to see significant strength, however, with the NYSE Arca Airline Index jumping by 1.9 percent to its best intraday level in a year.
Brokerage and software stocks are also seeing some strength in afternoon trading, while oil and healthcare stocks have moved to the downside.
In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance during trading on Wednesday. Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index jumped by 1.5 percent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index slid by 0.6 percent.
Meanwhile, the major European markets all moved to the upside on the day. While the U.K.’s FTSE 100 Index inched up by 0.1 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index both rose by 0.5 percent.
In the bond market, treasuries are regaining ground after trending lower over the past few sessions. As a result, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, is down by 5.1 basis points at 3.788 percent.
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