Stocks gave up some early gains and ended broadly lower after the head of the Federal Reserve appeared to play down the possibility of an interest rate cut this year, something some investors had been hoping for and more in Wednesday’s Stock Market Update.
Energy companies and retailers fell more than the rest of the market Wednesday. Exxon Mobil lost 2% and Home Depot gave up 2.4%. Safe-play stocks like utilities and real estate companies held up better. Simon Property Group jumped 2.3%.
The Fed move, which was widely expected, comes amid signs of renewed economic health, but unusually low inflation. The announcement reaffirms a message that has reassured investors since the start of the year: No rate hikes are likely anytime soon.
The low-rate policy is helping to keep borrowing costs down and supporting an economy that’s been growing steadily since late last year.
“The Fed action is a positive, because it means that rates are going to remain low,” said Tom Martin, senior portfolio manager with Globalt Investments. “And if there was anything that looked like it could be harmful, the Fed is standing ready to consider more accommodation.”
Soon after the Fed issued its statement, stock prices rose modestly. And the yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which influences mortgages and some other loans, fell slightly.
But the market gave back some of its gains as Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell fielded questions from reporters. At one point, he declined to say whether some investors are misguided in expecting the U.S. central bank to trim interest rates this year, something traders have been betting will happen before year’s end.
“The committee is comfortable with our current policy stance,” Powell said.
Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.51% from 2.50% late Tuesday.
The Fed also expressed a more upbeat view of the economy, saying “economic activity rose at a solid rate.” In March, the Fed had said it appeared that growth had slowed from the fourth quarter of last year.
Household goods makers, energy companies and other sectors helped pull the market lower, outweighing gains in technology stocks.
Stocks had been moving sideways right before the Fed’s announcement. They rallied earlier in the day as large U.S. companies continued to surprise investors with solid profits.
Earnings reporting season is more than a third of the way through and the results have been tempering investors’ worst fears about a severe profit slump. Earnings are down about 0.3% so far for S&P 500 companies. That’s far better than the 4% drop expected just a few weeks ago.
Technology giant Apple beat forecasts, despite another quarter of slumping revenue as iPhone sales struggle. Chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices also beat forecasts. The solid results from both companies helped send other technology stocks higher.
Johnson Controls and Harris were among the big gainers in the industrial sector after reporting surprisingly strong profits of their own.
Health care stocks leveled off after an early decline as the strength of CVS’ stellar results offset concerns about Amgen. The drugmaker did report solid profit results but also a surge in costs and falling sales of its cancer drug Neulasta. The health care sector has lagged far behind the rest of the market so far this year, up just 3% versus a 28% surge for technology stocks.
STOCK MARKET UPDATE
KEEPING SCORE: The S&P 500 fell 22 points, or 0.8%, to 2,923. The benchmark index is coming off three record high closes in a row.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 162 points, or 0.6%, to 26,430. The Nasdaq fell 45 points, or 0.6%, to 8,049.
Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10 year Treasury rose to 2.51%.
The U.S. stock market has been riding high this year after mounting a big comeback from a steep slump at the end of 2018. The benchmark S&P 500 is coming off three straight record closing highs.
APPLE BEAT: Apple rose 4.9% after its first quarter results beat Wall Street forecasts. Apple’s sales are still shrinking as iPhone demand weakens, however. Revenue fell 5%. It marks the first time in two and a half years that revenue fell in consecutive quarters.
Still, the company raised its dividend and signaled that the revenue slide could level off in the current quarter.
CRUISING ALONG: Cruise line operator Royal Caribbean Cruises jumped 6.6%. The company said booking rates and volumes helped push revenue higher, along with more demand for onboard activities. The company did warn investors that damage to a ship from a crane accident in the Bahamas will shave about 25 cents per share from its full-year profit forecast.
HEALTHY COVERAGE: CVS Health climbed 5.4% after the company reported a 42% surge in quarterly profits, blowing past Wall Street’s forecasts. The company also raised its profit forecast for the year.
The nation’s second-largest drugstore chain bought health insurer Aetna late last year for $69 billion. That investment seems to have paid off. The Aetna deal gave CVS a new line of business with 23 million customers.
BROKEN TAP: Beer maker Molson Coors, which trades under the ticker symbol “TAP,” fell 7.5% after a slump in volume weighed down revenue.
The company, which makes both Molson and Coors, reported revenue and profit below Wall Street forecasts. Sales did edge higher in the U.S., but it wasn’t enough to offset declines in Europe and the rest of the world.