MARKET SNAPSHOT: Stock Market Struggles To Hold Gains After Fed Minutes, White House Political Turmoil

By Sue Chang, MarketWatch , Ryan Vlastelica Features Dow Jones Newswires

Trump's decision to disband advisory panels contributing to uncertainty

Continue Reading Below

U.S. stocks were volatile on Wednesday after Federal Reserve minutes suggested that the central bank is wrestling with sluggish inflation but eager to commence an unwind of its $4.5 trillion asset portfolio.Benchmarks tipped higher following the minutes but have traded unsteadily, reflecting uncertainty about the strategic path for the central bank and political tensions facing President Donald Trump that could upend his pro-growth agenda.

The S&P 500 rose 2 points, or 0.1%, at 2,466, with the materials sector leading gains, while energy, off 1.2%, and banks, down 0.4%, led decliners.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 28 points, or 0.1%, to 22,029. If the Dow defends its gains to end positive, it will extend its winning streak to a fourth session. Meanwhile, the technology-laden Nasdaq Composite Index rose 8 points, or 0.1%, at 6,341.

The minutes from the Fed's meeting in July (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/fed-eyes-september-debt-drawdown-some-want-patient-on-rates-2017-08-16) showed that most Fed officials wanted to wait until the next monetary meeting to unveil details on its planned unwinding of its $4.5 trillion in bondholdings, indicating an announcement is possible in September. The Fed also discussed the surprisingly low inflation readings, with a few officials noting that the Fed could be patient before raising interest rates again.

Stocks have skidded on Wednesday as President Trump disbanded a pair of advisory panels (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-business-councils-disband-amid-wave-of-ceo-exits-2017-08-16) following departures of corporate leaders after widespread criticism over Trump's reaction and remarks to violence in Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend.

Continue Reading Below

(https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/897869174323728385)

The latest drama has sparked nervousness over the possible derailment of Trump's economic agenda, including tax and regulatory reforms, said Kent Engelke, chief economic strategist at Capitol Securities Management.

Still, recent trading has had an upward bias, even given an uncertain geopolitical environment that pressured stocks last week. The Dow has risen in 13 of the past 16 sessions, excluding Wednesday, and major indexes are within striking distance of record levels.

Even news that housing starts fell 5.6% in July (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/housing-starts-stumble-in-july-as-new-home-construction-churns-gradually-higher-2017-08-16) isn't dragging on the market as the weak number is a result of tight supply rather than weak demand, according to Engelke.

U.S. stocks closed mixed on Tuesday (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-stocks-eye-opening-gains-as-north-korea-pulls-back-on-guam-threat-2017-08-15), with the Dow average ending slightly higher for a third straight session, though the S&P 500 index and Nasdaq Composite Index finishing with small losses. The mixed session came after retail sales beat forecasts and as tensions between the U.S. and North Korea eased after Kim Jong Un decided not to launch a threatened missile attack on Guam.

Stock movers:Target Corp. (TGT) rose 3.8% after the retailer reported an increase in same-store sales (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/target-sees-sales-growth-as-it-plans-store-refresh-2017-08-16-74853019) and lifted its full-year adjusted profit outlook.

Shares of Urban Outfitters Inc.(URBN) soared 17% after the retailer late Tuesday reported earnings that easily beat estimates (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/urban-outfitters-shares-rally-after-sales-earnings-beat-2017-08-15).

Agilent Technologies Inc.(A) also reported profit above forecasts (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/agilent-shares-rise-more-than-4-after-company-reports-sales-eps-above-forecast-2017-08-15), sending shares 4.3% higher as one of the biggest percentage gainers among S&P 500 components.

Shares of Campbell Soup Co. (CPB) and 3M Co.(MMM) were both up 0.4% after chief executives of the two companies stepped down from Trump's manufacturing initiative in protest over his failure to denounce neo-Nazi and white supremacists who were the center of chaos over the weekend.

In other earnings on Wednesday, Cisco Systems Inc.(CSCO) and NetApp Inc. (NTAP) are scheduled to report after the market closes. Both stocks were higher in midday trading.

Other markets:Asian markets closed mixed (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/asian-markets-take-a-breather-after-early-week-rebound-2017-08-15), while European stocks headed higher for a third straight day (http://www.marketwatch.com/topics/columns/europe-markets).

The ICE Dollar Index reversed gains and gold rose following the Fed minutes. Oil prices (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/oil-prices-rise-on-hopes-for-another-big-drop-in-us-inventories-2017-08-16) slid after the Energy Information Administration said crude supplies fell for a seventh week but domestic production reached rose to the highest weekly level in over two years.

--Sara Sjolin contributed to this article.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 16, 2017 14:58 ET (18:58 GMT)