By Yashaswini Swamynathan
The S&P 500 and the Dow Jones industrial average inched up on Wednesday as financial stocks rose ahead of the release of the minutes of Federal Reserve's September policy meeting. The Nasdaq was kept in check by a drop in Cisco and Microsoft shares. The highlight of the meeting was an increase in the number of board members who voted in favor of a rate hike to three from one. The minutes to be released at 2:00 p.m. ET (1800 GMT) will provide further clues on the possibility of a hike this year. 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 nearly 71 percent for a move in December, according to the CME Group's FedWatch tool.The S&P 500 financial index rose 0.56 percent, helped by gains in Wells Fargo and other banks. Berkshire Hathaway gave the biggest boost to the sector.The dollar, which would also benefit from higher rates, rose to a seven-month high against a basket of major currencies.
"We've had a drop in commodity prices and some lackluster earnings yesterday and that is an overhang in the market," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at Wunderlich Equity Capital Markets in New York."Today the markets are trading orderly ahead of the Fed minutes, which is likely to solidify that we are going to move in December." Wall Street sold off on Tuesday after the first rush of quarterly results kicked off the earnings season on a sour note, and investors digested possible changing dynamics for the upcoming U.S. elections.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.
At 12:37 p.m. ET, the Dow was up 45.13 points, or 0.25 percent, at 18,173.79.The S&P 500 was up 6.12 points, or 0.29 percent, at 2,142.85 and the Nasdaq Composite index was up 4.00 points, or 0.08 percent, at 5,250.79.Seven of the 11 major S&P 500 indexes were higher, with real estate rising the most by 0.68 percent.
Energy stocks took a beating as oil prices fell nearly 1 percent after OPEC reported its September oil output at eight-year highs. [O/R]Humana Inc 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 shares plunged 12 percent after the cybersecurity company cut its third-quarter revenue and profit forecasts. Shares of rivals Palo Alto and Fireeye also fell. Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,617 to 1,257. On the Nasdaq, 1,465 issues rose and 1,221 fell.The S&P 500 index showed one new 52-week highs and two new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 24 new highs and 43 new lows. (Reporting by Yashaswini Swamynathan in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)
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