By Sinead Carew
The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones industrial average indexes held their modest gains on Wednesday after U.S. Federal Reserve meeting minutes did little to clarify expectations on the timing for its next interest rate hikes. Several voting policymakers judged a rate hike would be warranted "relatively soon" if the U.S. economy continued to strengthen, according to the September policy meeting."There's nothing new from the Fed and earnings are coming soon so investors are going to see what earnings look like before they buy more stocks," said Steve Massocca, Chief Investment Officer, Wedbush Equity Management LLC in San Francisco. Traders have priced in small odds of a rate increase in November as the meeting falls days ahead of the Nov. 8 U.S. presidential election. The odds rise to about 70 percent for a move in December, according to the CME Group's FedWatch tool.At 2:47 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones industrial average .DJI was up 30.92 points, or 0.17 percent, to 18,159.58, the S&P 500 .SPX had gained 4.36 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,141.09 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC had dropped 1.29 points, or 0.02 percent, to 5,245.49.
Overall, S&P 500 earnings are currently expected to fall 0.7 percent in the third quarter, marking the fifth quarter of negative earnings in a row, according to Thomson Reuters data.The dollar .DXY, which would also benefit from higher rates, rose to a seven-month high against a basket of major currencies on Wednesday. Wall Street had sold off on Tuesday after the third-quarter earnings season kicked off on a sour note and investors worried about the U.S. Nov. 8 election day.
Eight of the eleven major S&P 500 indexes were higher, led by real estate's .SPLRCR 1.2 percent rise. Energy stocks .SPNY were down 0.4 percent as oil prices fell after OPEC reported its September oil output at eight-year highs.
Humana Inc (HUM.N) was the biggest loser on the S&P, after the insurer said a U.S. government health department cut its quality rating on Humana Medicare plans, a move that could affect how much the government pays the company in 2018. Fortinet (FTNT.O) shares plunged 12 percent after the cybersecurity company cut its third-quarter revenue and profit forecasts and dragged down shares of rivals Palo Alto (PANW.N) and FireEye (FEYE.O). Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.17-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.03-to-1 ratio favoured advancers.The S&P 500 posted 1 new 52-week highs and 2 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 29 new highs and 48 new lows. (additional reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Nick Zieminski)
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