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US: Stocks rise on dovish Fed minutes

[NEW YORK] US stocks finished higher on Wednesday after Federal Reserve policymakers hinted at a slower pace to future interest rate hikes and retailers gained following a solid earnings report by Target.

The gains came as President Donald Trump disbanded a pair of business advisory boards after several chief executives resigned over the president's response to a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.1 per cent to 22,024.87.

The broad-based S&P 500 advanced 0.1 per cent to 2,468.11, while tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index rose 0.2 per cent to 6,345.10.

Some Fed members argued the US central bank can afford to "be patient" before raising rates again, according to minutes of the July meeting that also showed policymakers remained befuddled by weak inflation that has persisted despite historically low unemployment.

Retailers, which have been in retreat much of the year, advanced after big box retailer Target reported that comparable store sales in the second quarter rose 1.3 per cent compared with the year-ago amid increasing store traffic.

Target won 3.6 per cent, while rivals Costco Wholesale and Wal-Mart Stores climbed 2.2 per cent and 0.3 per cent respectively.

Mr Trump announced that he was ending a pair of CEO advisory councils amid a stampede of executive departures after the president's muted response to a white supremacist and neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville.

"For these CEOs it's becoming a distraction they don't need with very little benefit," said Jon Lieber, US practice head at risk consultancy Eurasia Group. Lieber said Republicans in Congress would still press on with tax reform, a key market priority.

J.J. Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade, said investors have already dismissed the possibility of tax cuts for 2017, but predicted there would be a "reckoning" if there no progress in 2018.

He said the White House's latest setbacks were not critical to investors.

"What drives the market is earnings and we have had pretty good earnings," Mr Kinahan said. "The other stuff is noise."