Stocks Edge Lower as Fed Stands Pat

By Riva Gold and Aaron Kuriloff Features Dow Jones Newswires

U.S. stocks remained slightly lower Wednesday after the Federal Reserve held short-term interest rates steady.

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The central bank offered little indication that recent softness in economic data would alter its plans to proceed with gradual interest rate increases this year. Officials unanimously held their benchmark rate steady in a range between 0.75% and 1%, while noting in a statement that slow growth earlier this year was "likely to be transitory."

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 17 points, or less than 0.1%, to 20933. The S&P 500 declined 0.3% and the Nasdaq Composite lost 0.5%.

The WSJ Dollar Index, which tracks the U.S. currency against a basket of 16 others, pared gains after the decision and was up 0.3%.

Materials shares in the S&P 500 fell 1.1%, weighed down by a sharp decline in copper prices that came as growing inventories coincided with fears about slowing demand from China. Freeport-McMoRan lost 6.2%. DuPont fell 1.9%, among the biggest percentage declines in the Dow industrials.

Falling shares of Apple also dragged on major indexes. The Nasdaq Composite pulled back from recent records after the iPhone maker late Tuesday reported an increase in profit but tepid demand for its flagship product.

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Apple pared losses to 0.3% after early declines Wednesday. Shares of the world's most-valuable company had soared to records earlier this year along with other tech stocks, as investors moved from shares of companies expected to benefit from policy shifts such as tax cuts and into stocks that tend to benefit from economic growth, such as large tech companies.

"There's quite a lot of optimism built into tech -- it was slightly less positive than people were hoping for," said John Stopford, head of multiasset income at Investec Asset Management.

Shares of Akamai Technologies fell 16% after the cloud-services company on Tuesday gave a negative outlook for the second quarter.

Shares of Mondelez International rose 3.3% after the company said it continued to improve profitability through cost-cutting, while Delphi Automotive shares rose 8.9% after the company unveiled a plan to spin off its powertrain systems segment.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note was little changed at 2.295%, according to Tradeweb, from 2.296% on Tuesday.

The moves came as the Institute for Supply Management on Wednesday said economic activity across the U.S. service sector increased in April. A gauge of private-sector hiring came in slightly above expectations, according to payroll processor Automatic Data Processing and Moody's Analytics, two days ahead of the monthly jobs report.

Jon Adams, investment strategist at BMO Global Asset Management, said he believes the Fed is unlikely to signal a change in stance Wednesday.

Since the Fed's last meeting, "We have taken a bit of a step back from an economic standpoint, but the earnings picture in the U.S. has been very strong," he said. "We knew energy and materials would be strong, but we've seen very broad-based earnings growth."

The Stoxx Europe 600 fell less than 0.1%, weighed down by a 2.5% drop in the basic-resources sector. The index's auto sector also pulled back 1% following downbeat U.S. auto sales figures on Tuesday.

The S&P ASX 200 fell 1% as weakness among lenders and declines in shares of mining companies offset a partial rebound in some oil-related stocks in Australia. The Shanghai Composite Index shed 0.3%.

Markets in Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong were closed for holidays.

U.S. crude oil added 0.2% to $47.73 a barrel.

Write to Riva Gold at riva.gold@wsj.com and Aaron Kuriloff at aaron.kuriloff@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 03, 2017 14:23 ET (18:23 GMT)