Wall St up after Fed rates news

Traders Edward Schreier, left, and Anthony Carannante confer on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Photo / AP
Traders Edward Schreier, left, and Anthony Carannante confer on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Photo / AP

Wall Street and commodities gained a day after the US Federal Reserve flagged that there are fewer interest rate increases ahead this year than previously thought.

During the latest two-day Federal Open Market Committee meeting that ended on Wednesday, Fed policy makers lowered their expectations for rate increases this year. The median projection of 17 Fed officials is for the fed funds rate to rise to 0.875 per cent by the end of 2016.

"You have seen a shift this time, in most participants' assessments of the appropriate path for policy," Fed Chair Janet Yellen said at a press conference on Wednesday, according to Bloomberg.

"That largely reflects a somewhat slower projected path for global growth, for growth in the global economy outside the United States, and for some tightening in credit conditions in the form of an increase in spreads."

The US dollar weakened on the prospect of fewer US rate hikes, bolstering the appeal of commodities including oil, gold and copper, which are denominated in the currency. That also helped boost the appeal of mining stocks.

"With loose monetary policy and low rates, we'll have a lot of money out there in the system and demand will be higher," Bob Haberkorn, a senior market strategist at RJO Futures in Chicago, told Bloomberg.

"The miners are benefiting from this because the trends on the physicals do look to be higher, whether it be gold, platinum, silver, copper or any of the other base metals for that matter."

Wall Street gained. In 12.39pm New York trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 0.8 per cent, while the Nasdaq Composite Index added 0.2 per cent. In 12.24pm trading, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index gained 0.5 per cent.

Advances in shares of General Electric and those of Boeing, last up 2.8 per cent and 2.2 per cent respectively, led the gains in the Dow.

Shares of UnitedHealth, Merck, and Johnson & Johnson posted the biggest percentage declines in the Dow at midday, down 1.7 per cent, 1 per cent, and 0.8 per cent respectively.

Shares of FedEx soared, last up 10.6 per cent, after the company upgraded its the lower end of its profit outlook range. It now predicts profit of US$10.70 to US$10.90 a share for the year ending in May, compared with a previous forecast of US$10.40 to US$10.90, FedEx said.

"We now expect our fiscal 2016 adjusted earnings to be up 20 per cent to 22 per cent over last year, as we continue to benefit from our execution of the profit improvement program," Alan Graf, FedEx's chief financial officer, said in a statement. "Our positive financial momentum should continue into our upcoming fiscal 2017, where we expect solid growth in earnings and cash flow."

Shares of Office Depot jumped, last up 7.1 per cent, after the New York Post reported that Amazon might be eyeing a stake in the company's corporate business unit.

The latest US economic data offered signs of strength.

A Labor Department report showed that initial jobless claims climbed 7,000 to a seasonally adjusted 265,000 for the week ended March 12, remaining below 300,000 for 54 weeks, the longest stretch since 1973.

"The labour market is tight as a drum," Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG Union Bank in New York, told Reuters. "If we continue to receive strong reports like this, then the Fed is going to have to put a June rate hike on the table."

Traders bet that the odds for a June rate hike were at 37 percent, compared with about 54 percent before the Fed's statement and outlook, according to Bloomberg.

The Fed Bank of Philadelphia's index for manufacturing in the mid-Atlantic region rallied to 12.4 in March, the first positive reading in seven months, while the Conference Board's leading economic index rose 0.1 percent in February, following a 0.2 percent drop in January.

A Commerce Department report showed the current account deficit narrowed in the fourth quarter, falling 3.6 percent to US$125.3 billion.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index ended the day with a decline of 0.2 percent from the previous close. Germany's DAX Index dropped 1.1 percent, while France's CAC 40 Index fell 0.7 percent. The UK's FTSE 100 Index rose 0.2 percent.

- BusinessDesk

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