Technology stocks lifted the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq higher on Wednesday but a fall in Boeing shares dragged the Dow lower, ahead of the release of the Federal Reserve's minutes from its latest policy meeting. A U.S. Labor Department report showed consumer prices increased by the most in 14 months in March, although underlying inflation remained benign. The tame inflation environment supports the Federal Reserve's decision last month to suspend its three-year campaign to raise interest rates.
"We are starting to see low inflation in the U.S. and moderating growth on a global scale and right now it is just all about interest rates supporting the markets," said Josh Wein, portfolio manager at Hennessy Funds in Chapel Hill, NC. The U.S. central bank will release minutes from its March meeting at 2:00 p.m. ET (1800 GMT) that will give an insight into the Fed's thinking behind its move to suspend rate hikes this year.
"People are looking for language that might give credence to the idea that the Fed might serve as a backstop for the stock market," Wein added. Financials fell 0.24%, with bank stocks down 0.36%. Chief executives of some of the largest U.S. banks appeared before Congress, giving lawmakers their first opportunity to grill the lenders since the 2007-09 financial crisis. JPMorgan Chase & Co and Wells Fargo & Co will kick-off earnings season in earnest on Friday.
S&P 500 banks are seen posting earnings growth of 1.9%, down from 8.2% estimated six months ago, according to Refinitiv data. Industrial stocks were down 0.38%, as Boeing Co shares continued to weigh after the company on Tuesday reported zero new orders for its 737 MAX jet following a worldwide grounding of the aircraft in March. Its shares were down 1.4%. The sluggish moves on Wall Street's main indexes followed a selloff on Tuesday, triggered by a U.S. threat to slap tariffs on European goods and the International Monetary Fund's cut in global growth forecast. Investors are now hoping for better-than-feared first-quarter earnings reports and a dovish Fed to keep up the momentum in the market.
At 11:21 a.m. EDT the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 34.50 points, or 0.13%, at 26,116.08, the S&P 500 was up 4.94 points, or 0.17%, at 2,883.14 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 37.73 points, or 0.48%, at 7,947.01. Eight of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher. Technology stocks gained 0.63%, helped by Microsoft Corp, Nvidia Corp and Cisco Systems Inc. Levi Strauss & Co jumped 5.1% after the jeans maker posted a 7% rise in quarterly revenue after returning to public markets last month.
Shares of drug distributor AmerisourceBergen Corp fell 5.8%, the most on the S&P 500, after brokerage Evercore ISI downgraded the stock to "in line". Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 2.49-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 2.03-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq. The S&P index recorded 18 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 52 new highs and 25 new lows.
(With inputs from agencies.)