S&P Edges Up as Fed Considers More Easing
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The broad S&P 500 eked out a modest gain after the Federal Reserve hinted that it is considering new measures to boost the struggling U.S. economy.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average dipped 30.8 points, or 0.23%, to 13173, the S&P 500 rose 0.32 point, or 0.02%, to 1413 and the Nasdaq Composite gained 6.4 points, or 0.21%, to 3074.
Members of the Federal Reserve’s policy-setting committee pared back their expectations for short-term U.S. economic growth as a result of tepid consumer spending and employment growth, Federal Open Market Committee minutes revealed.
The FOMC warned that a potential intensification of the European debt crisis and the looming fiscal cliff also present ‘significant downside risks’ to the outlook. As such, the FOMC considered new policy options, including a large-scale asset purchase program and the extension of the Fed’s low-rate pledge to jump-start the economy.
"The minutes indicate that some Fed members are chomping at the bit to provide additional support to the recovery," Paul Edelstein, director of financial economics at IHS Global Insight wrote in a research note.
"But while it had been assumed that quantitative easing was the Fed’s preferred policy option, the minutes suggest that an extension of the forward guidance into 2015 is a distinct possibility."
Sales of existing, single-family homes rose 2.3% in July from the month before to an annualized rate of 4.47 million units, according to the National Association of Realtors. That came in short of the 4.52 million analysts expected.
In Asia, Japan's trade deficit came in at roughly $6.5 billion in July, which was higher than economists expected. The shortfall came as exports tumbled 8.1% -- more than twice the decline that was forecast.
BHP Billiton (NYSE:BHP), one of the world's biggest miners, also saw its profits drop sharply during the second half of the year from the same period in 2011, which hurt the mining sector in European markets.
Also on the European front, Euro Group President Jean-Claude Juncker met with Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to discuss a potential extension of the date at which the country completes its fiscal adjustment program. The program is designed to reduce the country's budget deficit, but it comes at the price of extreme austerity measures that have weighed heavily on its economy. In a press conference, the two indicated that discussions are still ongoing.
Oil futures were slightly higher. The benchmark contract traded in New York rose 42 cents, or 0.43%, to $97.26 a barrel. Wholesale New York Harbor gasoline rallied 1.3% to $3.104 a gallon.
In metals, gold ticked lower by $2.40, or 0.15%, to $1,641 a troy ounce.
The Euro Stoxx 50 dropped 1.5% to 2453, the English FTSE 100 sold off by 1.4% to 5774 and the German DAX slumped 1% to 7018.
In Asia, the Japanese Nikkei 225 slipped 0.27% to 9132 and the Japanese Nikkei 225 fell 0.78% to 19888.