U.S. stocks closed mixed after choppy trading Wednesday as investors pored over minutes from the Federal Reserve’s last meeting earlier this month for clues on its next move.
The latest readout from the U.S. central bank’s Jan. 31- Feb. 1 gathering indicated officials were intent on proceeding with “ongoing increases” but open to reaching an endpoint later this year.
The S&P 500 (^GSPC) declined 0.2%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) slipped about 80 points, or 0.3%. The technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite (^IXIC) was an outlier, edging up 0.1%.
“Participants concurred that the Federal Open Market Committee had made significant progress over the past year in moving toward a sufficiently restrictive stance of monetary policy,” the minutes said.
“Even so, participants agreed that, while there were signs that the cumulative effect of the Committee’s tightening of the stance of monetary policy had begun to moderate inflationary pressures, inflation remained well above the Committee’s longer-run goal of 2% and the labor market remained very tight.”
Discussions also reflected that most members favored the smaller 0.25% increase delivered during the latest policy decision but some in the group preferred raising rates by 50 basis points.
Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester admitted in a speech last week she would have favored the more sizable hike but officials did not want to surprise the markets, which were pricing in 0.25%.
“The worst of inflation may be in the rear view but it remains well above the Fed’s target,” Mike Loewengart, head of model portfolio construction at Morgan Stanley’s Global Investment Office said in a note. “Bottom line is that many market headwinds aren’t going away and investors should expect volatility to stay as they parse over the impact rates being higher for longer will have.”
Earlier in the day, St. Louis Fed President James Bullard in a televised interview with CNBC said the U.S. central bank must bring the federal funds rate to a range of 5.25% to 5.5% in order to bring inflation back down to its 2% target.
Wall Street banks have recently revised their expectations for upcoming rate hikes by the Federal Reserve. Teams at Goldman Sachs and Bank of America said last week they estimate three more rate increases this year. Ahead of February’s interest rate increase, some market participants had seen that move potentially marking the end of the Fed’s rate hiking cycle.
Coinbase (COIN) was among movers on Wednesday, falling 1.4% even after the cryptocurrency exchange reported fourth-quarter results that beat Wall Street estimates and losses for the full year that were narrower than feared.
Elsewhere in specific names, Palo Alto Networks’ (PANW) stock jumped 12.5% after the cybersecurity firm raised its annual profit outlook and said it was working on managing costs.
Chinese search engine Baidu (BIDU) reported better-than-expected fourth quarter results, boosted by strength in its cloud, advertising and artificial intelligence segments. Shares capped the session down 2.6% after reversing gains from earlier in the day.
Meme stock darling AMC Entertainment (AMC) was on watch after the Allegheny County Employees’ Retirement System filed a class action lawsuit in Delaware alleging the movie theater company created preferred shares without their permission. Shares rose 2.4%.
In the bond market, Treasury yields were steady early into the day after rising sharply Tuesday to the highest levels since November.
The moves follow a steep sell-off Tuesday that saw the S&P 500 nosedive 2% below 4,000, the Dow wipe out 700 points, and the Nasdaq plunge 2.5% — the moves coming as investors adjust their expectations to higher interest rates for longer.
Alexandra Semenova is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alexandraandnyc
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