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Dow ends slightly lower after Fed leaves easy-monetary policies unchanged

By Joy Wiltermuth and Mark DeCambre

McDonald's, Boeing, and Pfizer stocks in focus

U.S. stock indexes had a mixed finish Wednesday, after the Federal Reserve said it would keep interest rates steady near zero and retain its full range of tools to support the economic recovery during the pandemic.

Investors also were focused on results streaming in from the busiest week of corporate earnings reports for the second quarter.

How did stock benchmarks end trade?

On Tuesday (link), the Dow fell 85.79 points, or 0.2%, to 35,058.52. The The S&P 500 declined 20.84 points, or 0.5%, to 4,401.46 to snap a five-session winning run. The tech-heavy Nasdaq dropped 180.14 points, or 1.2%, to 14,660.58, its largest one day fall since May 12.

What drove the market?

Stocks mostly got a boost after the Federal Reserve opted not to tighten monetary policy following a two-day meeting, reiterating that the path of recovery will depend on the virus.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell stressed that vaccinations have been a major aid in the U.S. economic recovery, in an afternoon press briefing, but cautioned that their slowing pace and the delta variant of the coronavirus also remain risks.

Investors were hoping for clarity on when the central bank will begin tapering its $120 billion monthly bond purchases but Powell said the topic continues to be studied by the central bank and reiterated that any future decisions will remain data dependent. "I would want to see some strong job numbers," Powell said.

"I think it's one more small step forward in their patient and methodical path" toward eventually scaling back monthly bond purchases, said Jason England, global bonds portfolio manager at Janus Henderson Investors, in an interview with MarketWatch. "Obviously, they've made progress on the inflation front, but not as much on jobs."

Powell stressed again that he expects inflation to eventually pull back closer to the Fed's 2% annual target.

See: Fed says economy has 'made progress' toward standards for tapering, but not enough to start yet (link)

And:Fed is walking 'bit of a tightrope' between downside risks and inflation (link)

Beyond the Fed update, investors remained bullish on the strength of second-quarter earnings reported thus far, with the earnings growth rate in the April through the end of June up nearly 80%, led by a 168% rate for the financial sector, according to data compiled by S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Social-media group Facebook FB (#phrase-company?ref=COMPANY%7CFB;onlineSignificance=passing-mention), online payments processor PayPal PYPL (#phrase-company?ref=COMPANY%7CPYPL;onlineSignificance=passing-mention), chip group Qualcomm QCOM (#phrase-company?ref=COMPANY%7CQCOM;onlineSignificance=passing-mention) and auto maker Ford F (#phrase-company?ref=COMPANY%7CF;onlineSignificance=passing-mention) will report after the close of Wednesday's session.

Robinhood Markets, Inc., a popular online brokerage with individuals, is expected to price its initial public offering on Wednesday and to begin trading under the "HOOD" ticker on Thursday.

Read:Robinhood asking for $35 billion valuation in its IPO: Here are the 5 most eye-popping disclosures from the filing (link)

Ahead of the Robinhood IPO, the company said regulators are investigating (link)whether its employees traded popular meme stocks GameStop Corp GME (#phrase-company?ref=COMPANY%7CGME;onlineSignificance=prominent) and AMC Entertainment Holdings, Inc.AMC (#phrase-company?ref=COMPANY%7CAMC;onlineSignificance=prominent)before the platform publicly announced trading restrictions (link) in those names on Jan. 28.

On the public health front, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday recommended (link) that Americans -- even those who are fully vaccinated -- in parts of the country with "substantial or high" rates of COVID-19 go back to wearing masks in public indoor spaces as the delta variant of the coronavirus results in rising cases of COVID.

"The delta variant is an unknown right now," said Eric Merlis, head of global markets trading at Citizens Bank. "It seems like stocks, for the most part, have looked past it, not ignoring it."

"It seems like something we are going to have to learn to deal with," he told MarketWatch. "But that's the positive outlook on it, and that opens up the possibility of more downside risk than upside risk."

Google on Friday said it would postpone its return to office effort (link) for most workers until mid-October in light of the delta variant, but also outlined a new policy where all workers eventually will need to be vaccinated at its U.S. campuses and globally.

On the data front, the U.S. trade deficit in goods rose (link)3.5% in June to record $91.2 billion, and advanced U.S. wholesale inventories climbed 0.8%, while retail inventories increased by 0.3% last month.

Which companies were in focus?

How other assets performed

Barbara Kollmeyer contributed reporting

-Joy Wiltermuth; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

07-28-21 1624ET

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