Dollar flat as investors await Federal Reserve call
U.S. stock benchmarks switched between small gains and losses Wednesday morning as investors traded skittishly ahead of the Federal Reserve's monetary-policy update.
Although Wall Street isn't expecting any change to rates, investors will be looking for clarity on the Fed's projection for futures rates and what's expected to be the launch of its $4.5 trillion asset-portfolio unwind.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was little changed, up 19 points, or less than 0.1%, at 22,389, with shares of Apple Inc. (AAPL), weighing on the benchmark after it reportedly admitted (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/apple-admits-issues-with-apple-watch-connectivity-stock-falls-2017-09-20) there are issues with connectivity of its new Apple Watch Series 3. Shares of Boeing Co. (BA) and McDonald's Corp. (MCD) were helping offset some of that decline to a fresh intraday record at 22,399.33.
The S&P 500 index was up about a point at 2,508, after briefly touching its own fresh intraday day record at 2,508.85. Gains in financials, up 0.5% and telecommunication, 0.6% higher, helped lift the broad-market gauge, while technology, off 0.9% and consumer staples, down 0.2%, were the only sectors firmly trading in the red.
The Nasdaq Composite Index , meanwhile, was 9 points, or 0.%, lower at 6,453, pressured, in part, by Apple's slide.
The mostly subdued trading environment, marked by low trading volumes, comes after all three main benchmark posted small gains and ended at all-time highs on Tuesday (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/us-stocks-aim-for-fresh-records-as-fed-meeting-steals-focus-2017-09-19). The Dow average climbed 0.2%, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite Index both ended 0.1% higher.
"Financial markets are consolidating this morning, with all eyes on the Fed as the [Federal Open Market Committee] conclude their two-day meeting with the announcement of monetary policy," said Richard Perry, market analyst at Hantec Markets, said in a note.
The wait for Fed news also comes as investors gear up for third-quarter results at the end of the month, which could provide further direction for markets.
"To me, the muted markets of the last few days are mainly a result of a lack of new market moving news. We're in between [third-quarter] earnings seasons so corporate news flow is light," said Colin Cieszynski, chief market strategist at CMC Markets.
Read:Why stock market investors shouldn't sweat a shrinking Fed balance sheet (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-stock-market-investors-shouldnt-sweat-a-shrinking-fed-balance-sheet-2017-09-19)
The announcement is due at 2 p.m. Eastern Time, followed by a news conference with Chairwoman Janet Yellen at 2:30 p.m. Eastern.
Any announcement about reducing the Fed's balance-sheet normalization should have only a relatively muted impact on markets, given that the market largely expects it, said analysts at Rabobank in a note.
Some industry participants, however, have been describing the asset reduction as the "great unwind (https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-fed-a-decade-after-the-crisis-is-about-to-embark-on-the-great-unwinding-1505746843)" and worrying that it might roil markets. "It is the start of something unknown, it is going to start jitters. It is going to make us tremble," said John Manley, chief equity strategist at Wells Fargo Funds Management.
However, the Fed is aiming to offer as little disruption as possible, he noted.
"I expect Janet Yellen to have as little impact on sentiment as she can," " think what she's going to give us a sense of is that she's very much aware of the risks involved," Manley said.
Several central-bank officials already wanted to start winding down the Fed's portfolio of government securities in July, but the majority wanted to hold until a later date. Traders now expect the FOMC on Wednesday to reveal details on a balance-sheet reduction (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/feds-balance-sheet-unwind-will-be-moment-of-truth-for-financial-markets-2017-09-18) that could start as early as October.
The dollar traded slightly lower against most other currencies ahead of the announcement. The ICE Dollar Index was flat at 91.753, trying to snap a two-day skid.
In other economic news on Wednesday, a reading on existing-home sales for August showed that sales dropped for the fourth time in five months as real-estate agents continue to blame a lack of available homes to buy. The National Association of Realtors said existing home sales fell (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/existing-home-sales-fall-in-august-for-the-fourth-time-in-five-months-2017-09-20)1.7% to a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.35 million.
See:MarketWatch's economic calendar (http://www.marketwatch.com/economy-politics/calendars/economic).
Stock movers: Shares of General Mills Inc.(GIS) slid 5% after the food company, which brands include Cheerios, Haagen-Dazs and Betty Crocker, missed profit and sales expectations (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/general-mills-stock-tumbles-after-profit-and-sales-miss-2017-09-20).
Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc. (ALNY) soared 40% after positive results in a late-stage trial (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/sanofi-alnylam-report-positive-results-from-late-stage-trial-of-hattr-amyloidosis-treatment-2017-09-20).
Shares of American Outdoor Brands Corp.(AOBC) declined 3.6%, despite reports late Tuesday that President Donald Trump will ease rules on gun exports.
Bed Bath & Beyond Inc.(BBBY) slumped more than 14% ahead of the bell after the retailer late on Tuesday released earnings that widely missed forecasts (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/bed-bath-beyond-earnings-miss-widely-stock-halted-2017-09-19).
FedEx Corp.(FDX) added 2.2% after the logistics company late Tuesday reported earnings below forecasts (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/fedex-shares-down-after-earnings-company-pins-miss-on-cyberattack-hurricane-harvey-2017-09-19), saying the quarter offered "significantly operational challenges" due to a cyberattack and Hurricane Harvey.
Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) slipped less than 0.8%, even as the software major late Tuesday increased its dividend to 42 cents a share (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/microsoft-hikes-quarterly-dividend-announces-changes-to-board-of-directors-2017-09-19).
Other markets: Stocks in Europe were mostly higher, although the U.K.'s FTSE 100 index (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/ftse-100-edges-up-as-fed-decision-takes-center-stage-2017-09-20)underperformed due to a rise in the pound. Sterling strengthened after U.K. retail sales for August showed a bigger rise than expected (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/uk-retail-sales-rise-faster-than-expected-2017-09-20).
Asian stocks closed mixed (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/asian-markets-press-pause-ahead-of-fed-announcement-2017-09-19) as traders there remained cautious ahead of the Fed call.
Crude-oil prices rose firmly (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/crude-prices-rise-on-signs-of-drop-in-global-inventories-2017-09-20) to $50.81 a barrel, while metals gained across the board, with gold futures trading at around $1,316 an ounce, heading for the first gain in the past four session (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/gold-prices-pause-losing-skid-as-fed-signals-awaited-2017-09-20)s.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
September 20, 2017 13:10 ET (17:10 GMT)