The Business Times

US: Wall Street slips on weak oil prices; Fed minutes in focus

Published Wed, Feb 22, 2017 · 03:08 PM

[BENGALURU] US stocks slipped Wednesday as a drop in oil prices weighed on the energy sector, while investors awaited the minutes of the Federal Reserve's most recent policy meeting for clues on the timing of the next interest rate hike.

Oil prices fell 1.2 per cent to US$55.99 as the US dollar gained in strength. The S&P 500 energy sector slipped 0.64 per cent and was the top drag on the broader index.

Investors were focused on the minutes of the Fed's Jan 31-Feb 1 meeting, expected at 1900 GMT.

Policymakers, including Fed Chair Janet Yellen, have been hinting at the possibility of a rate hike sooner than later. But traders have priced in slim chances of a move until June, even with the backdrop of strong economic data.

The odds of a rate hike stand at 22 per cent for March, 47 per cent for May and 69 per cent for June, according to Thomson Reuters data.

"The market has priced in rate hikes and is welcoming it," said Andre Bakhos, managing director at Janlyn capital in Bernardsville, New Jersey.

"But the one thing that could derail it is if it comes all of a sudden."

Also on investors' minds is how the Fed views uncertainty regarding economic policy under President Donald Trump.

Mr Trump's promises of tax and regulatory reforms as well as fiscal stimulus have boosted investors' confidence, helping send Wall Street to record highs.

At 9.41am ET, the Dow Jones industrial average was down 43.27 points, or 0.21 per cent, at 20,699.73, the S&P 500 was down 6.28 points, or 0.26 per cent, at 2,359.1 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 14.64 points, or 0.25 per cent, at 5,851.31.

Seven of the 11 major S&P sectors were lower, with financials adding to the decline. Real estate, utilities and health were the outliers.

Exxon Mobil was down 0.6 per cent, making the stock the top drag on the S&P.

Garmin jumped nearly 9 per cent to US$55 after the GPS-devices maker posted its fifth-straight quarterly profit and sales beat.

Bristol-Myers was the top stock on the S&P, with a 1.9 per cent gain after billionaire investors Carl Icahn took a stake in the company.

UPS slipped 1.6 per cent to US$106.04 after Morgan Stanley cut its price target on the package delivery company's stock.

Tesla and HP Inc are some of the key companies scheduled to report results on Wednesday.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers on the NYSE by 1,742 to 827. On the Nasdaq, 1,489 issues fell and 802 advanced.

The S&P 500 index showed 16 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 49 new highs and 14 new lows.



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