The S&P 500 has ended slightly lower as an initial boost from the likes of Apple, Boeing and General Electric following their quarterly results faded after a policy announcement from the Federal Reserve.
Stocks initially showed little reaction to the Fed’s policy statement on Wednesday but steadily lost ground on the heels of a news conference by chairman Jerome Powell.
The Fed held rates steady as expected while offering no new guidance on its balance sheet but Powell noted “uncertainties about the outlook remain” and noted the coronavirus outbreak in China.
Since the Fed’s last rate cut in October, its third reduction of 2019, policymakers have agreed to keep their target policy rate in the current range of 1.50 per cent and 1.75 per cent.
Apple gained 2.09 per cent after the iPhone maker late on Tuesday reported earnings for the holiday shopping quarter that topped analysts’ expectations, even as it braced for more disruptions in virus-hit China.
Boeing rose 1.72 per cent after the plane maker forecast nearly $US19 billion in costs related to the grounding of its 737 MAX jets, smaller than what many analysts had expected, and helping offset the company’s report of its first annual loss since 1997.
Several companies have warned of disruption to their operations due to the coronavirus outbreak and a Chinese government economist was quoted as saying the country’s economic growth may drop to 5 per cent or even lower.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 11.6 points, or 0.04 per cent, to 28,734.45, the S&P 500 lost 2.84 points, or 0.09 per cent, to 3,273.4 and the Nasdaq Composite added 5.48 points, or 0.06 per cent, to 9,275.16.
As earnings gather pace, analysts expect profit for S&P 500 companies to be flat in the fourth quarter, an improvement over the 0.6 per cent decline estimated at the start of the season, according to Refinitiv data.
General Electric jumped 10.32 per cent after the industrial conglomerate set a higher cash target for 2020.
Starbucks Corp dropped 2.12 per cent after warning of a financial hit as it closed thousands of restaurants and adjusted operating hours in China.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.01-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.62-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 46 new 52-week highs and 8 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 80 new highs and 65 new lows.
About 6.88 billion shares changed hands in US exchanges, compared with the 7.45 billion daily average over the last 20 sessions.