Stocks were choppy in Wednesday’s session as the end of the Fed meeting dominated the headlines. Bernanke and Co. offered up the markets an Operation Twist continuation with $267 billion in longer-term bond purchases through the end of the year.
Stocks were very volatile right after the announcement, and then again around 3pm eastern during some of the Fed’s press conference before rising to close out the session. Overall the Dow fell by 0.1%, while the S&P 500 slumped by 0.2% and the Nasdaq managed to finish in the green by two points.
In terms of sector performances, energy, consumer, and utilities were down on the session while some names in tech and most of the big banks finished in the green. Specifically, investors saw a solid day in JPM but a nearly 3% loss out of personal goods maker PG.
Thanks to the Fed-induced volatility, bond rates were quite shaky throughout the curve. Debt rates rose pretty much across the board with mid range debt seeing modest increases although the 10 and 30 year varieties hardly moved at all on the session (read Mid Cap ETF Investing 101).
Commodities were also shaky thanks to the uncertainty in the currency market, helping to push all of the energy and metals stocks lower on the day. Some soft commodities also followed this path lower, but investors did see strength in corn, wheat, and soybeans, as the hot weather continues across much of the Midwest.
Due to the end of the FOMC meeting, investors did see strong volume in a number of products. Many of the major equity ETFs saw volume that exceeded daily averages with high trading amounts coming especially in the energy and U.S. large cap markets.
In particular, investors saw an outsized level of interest in the PowerShares DB G10 Currency Harvest Fund . This product usually sees volume of about 200,000 shares in a normal session while today’s activity reached the one million share mark (see China Currency ETFs: Slow and Steady in 2012?).
However, it should be noted that most of this volume came in a block trade in the first hour of the session with a 478,000 share block. Clearly, a large investor was using this currency ETF—which has heavy exposure to a number of developed market currencies—as an interesting play ahead of the Fed meeting.
Still, the product finished the day ahead by just 0.4% as the Fed failed to announce any truly new stimulus measures and instead offered up a smaller extended version of ‘Operation Twist’
Another product that saw a great deal of outsized activity was the Vanguard MSCI Europe ETF (VGK - ETF report). This ETF usually trades about 1.9 million shares a day but experienced a spike to just over 5.7 million during today’s session (read Forget European Woes with These Three ETFs).
This fund appears to have been in focus not only on the Fed and its subsequent Q&A session, but also the G20 in Mexico as well. The pressure was on European members during this conference of 20 of the most powerful economies in the world, but it still remains uncertain how Europe will proceed.
Thanks to these events, VGK was mostly flat on the day, save for some Fed inspired volatility around 12:45pm. Beyond that, the product was mostly range bound and ended the session higher by about 0.5%.
(see more on ETFs at the Zacks ETF Center)