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Benchmarks soared on Wednesday primarily boosted by the encouraging minutes from the central bank’s policy meeting. Fed officials are said to be in favor of hiking rates only when they are sure about the economic recovery. Alcoa’s positive quarterly numbers boosted its share price, somewhat driving the broader market as well. For a look at the issues currently facing the markets, make sure to read today’s Ahead of Wall Street article
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) gained 1.1% to close Wednesday’s trading session at 16,437.18. The Standard & Poor (S&P 500) too rose 1.1% to finish at 1,872.18. The tech-laden Nasdaq Composite Index went up 1.7% to 4,183.90. The fear-gauge CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) plunged 7.2% to settle at 13.82. Total volume for the day was roughly 6.3 billion shares, lower than this month’s average of 6.9 billion. Declining stocks were outnumbered by advancing stocks on the NYSE. For 26% stocks that declined, 71% advanced.
Benchmarks were positively impacted after minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee’s (FOMC) March meeting indicated that the central bank may not hike the key lending rates in the first half of 2015. The central bank also opined that the 6.5% unemployment rate target to determine interest rate hike is outdated.
The latest minutes from the Federal Open Market Committee’s March meeting also stated that measured tapering is likely to continue for some time.
The Federal Open Market Committee decided in its March policy meeting to ‘modestly’ reduce the pace of its bond purchase program. Also, in that meeting the central bank agreed to trim purchase of its U.S. Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities by another $10 billion starting April. This will bring the bond-buyback program to $55 billion.
Previously, Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen had commented that the economic stimulus program may end this fall and the key lending rates will then be raised six months later. The central bank also mentioned that it will rely on a ‘wide range of information’ on jobs as well as inflation and not just the unemployment rate while deciding on raising interest rates.
However, a week later Yellen allayed concerns about the possibility of a sooner-than-expected hike in interest rates. In her first public speech at a conference in Chicago, she said that the central bank’s “extraordinary” commitment to support the economy is required for “some time to come”.
Coming back to yesterday’s events, shares of aluminum maker Alcoa Inc. (NYSE:AA) rose 3.8%. Alcoa officially kicked-off the earning season by announcing their first-quarter earnings results. The earnings per share (EPS) of 9 cents topped the Zacks Consensus Estimate of 5 cents.
Bargain-hunting investors bought technology stocks. Internet Information Provider stocks from the Technology sector such as Facebook, Inc. (NASDAQ:FB), LinkedIn Corporation (NYSE:LNKD), Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO) and Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) surged 7.3%, 4.2%, 3.1% and 1.7%, respectively. Overall, the Technology Select Sector SPDR (XLK) rose 1.3%.
Investors also bought bio-tech stocks. Shares of bio-tech companies such as Biogen Idec Inc. (NASDAQ:BIIB), Gilead Sciences Inc. (NASDAQ:GILD), Vertex Pharmaceuticals Incorporated (NASDAQ:VRTX), Amgen Inc. (NASDAQ:AMGN) and Celgene Corporation (NASDAQ:CELG) soared 5.2%, 0.9%, 7.0%, 1.7% and 6.6%, respectively. The Health Care Select Sector SPDR (XLV) led the advance among the S&P 500 sectors. The sector increased 2.1%. Overall, 9 out of 10 sectors of the S&P 500 ended in the green.
Separately, investors showed interest in high-growth stocks. Shares of momentum companies such as Boston Scientific Corporation (NYSE:BSX), The Priceline Group Inc. (NASDAQ:PCLN), Red Hat, Inc. (NYSE:RHT) and E*TRADE Financial Corporation (NASDAQ:ETFC) rose 4.9%, 3.9%, 4.1% and 6.0%, respectively.
Wednesday’s economic data had little impact on the markets. The U.S. Department of Commerce announced that the US wholesale inventories rose 0.5% in February after it rose 0.8% in January. This rise in wholesale inventories in February was in line with the consensus estimate of a rise of 0.5%.