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VOL. 42 | NO. 8 | Friday, February 23, 2018
Stock indexes waver as investors parse Fed chief's comments
NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. stock indexes wavered Thursday as investors dissected Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell's latest comments before Congress for clues about the future path of interest rates.
Stocks flipped between modest losses and gains as Powell told the Senate Finance Committee that the central bank continues to plan a gradual rise in interest rates as the economy continues to grow.
Powell may have calmed some of the market's worries when he said he expects that "some continued strengthening in the labor market could take place without inflation."
Earlier this week, Treasury yields jumped and stocks tumbled when Powell told a House committee that he's feeling more optimistic about the economy. Some traders took that as a signal that the Fed may get more aggressive about raising interest rates, which has been a top concern for investors.
KEEPING SCORE: The Standard & Poor's 500 index was down 2 points, or 0.1 percent, at 2,711 as of 11 a.m. Eastern time. It was up as much as 0.6 percent and down as much as 0.5 percent in choppy trading earlier in the morning as traders parsed Powell's comments. The benchmark index is coming off its worst month in two years. Concerns about higher inflation and rates helped trigger a huge sell-off in early February.
The Dow Jones industrial average was little changed at 25,024. The Nasdaq composite lost 22, or 0.3 percent, to 7,250.
YIELDS: The yield on the 10-year Treasury note dipped to 2.85 percent from 2.86 percent late Wednesday. The two-year yield slipped to 2.25 percent from 2.26 percent, and the 30-year yield held steady at 3.13 percent.
Interest rates have been marching higher in recent months as the economy continues to improve and the Federal Reserve pulls short-term rates off their record lows. Higher rates can divert investors away from stocks.
SHARP BITE: Patterson Companies fell to the biggest loss in the S&P 500 after it reported weaker earnings for the latest quarter than analysts expected and said that its chief financial officer was leaving. Shares of the company, which sells dental and animal health products, dropped $7.49, or 23.7 percent, to $24.09.
LOW ENERGY: Monster Beverage also fell sharply after reporting weaker sales and earnings for the latest quarter than expected. Shares dropped $7.31, or 11.5 percent, to $56.08.
COMMODITIES: Oil prices continue to drop following a report on Wednesday that showed more crude supplies in inventories last week than analysts expected. Benchmark U.S. crude fell $1.18 to $60.56 per barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, lost $1.04 to $63.70 per barrel.
Gold dropped $8.90 to $1,309.00 per ounce.
CURRENCIES: The dollar inched up to 106.91 from 106.66 yen late Wednesday. The euro fell to $1.2170 from $1.2203, and the British pound slipped to $1.3743 from $1.3771.
MARKETS OVERSEAS: Stocks tumbled around the world following Wall Street's sharp drop on Wednesday, where the S&P 500 lost 1.1 percent.
Japan's Nikkei 225 lost 1.6 percent, France's CAC 40 fell 1.2 percent and Germany's DAX was down 2.3 percent. The FTSE 100 in London dropped 1.1 percent.