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Stocks Finish Lackluster Session Mostly Higher - U.S. Commentary

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While buying interest was somewhat subdued, stocks moved mostly higher over the course of the trading day on Wednesday. With the upward move, the tech-heavy Nasdaq ended the session at its best closing level in over six months.

The Dow bounced back and forth across the unchanged line before closing up 6.58 points or less than a tenth of a percent at 26,157.16. The Nasdaq climbed 54.97 points or 0.7 percent to 7,964.24 and the S&P 500 rose 10.01 points or 0.4 percent to 2,888.21.

The higher close on Wall Street came after the minutes of the Federal Reserve's latest monetary policy meeting suggested the outlook for interest rates remains fluid.

The minutes said a majority of meeting participants expected that the evolution of the economic outlook and risks to the outlook would likely warrant leaving rates unchanged for the remainder of the year.

Several of these participants saw the current target range for rates of 2.25 to 2.50 percent as close to their estimates of its longer-run neutral level.

However, the minutes noted participants continued to emphasize that future rate decisions would depend on their ongoing assessments of the economic outlook and potential risks.

"Several participants noted that their views of the appropriate target range for the federal funds rate could shift in either direction based on incoming data and other developments," the minutes said.

Some participants even indicated it would be appropriate to raise rates modestly later this year if the economy evolves as they currently expect.

With regard to the economic outlook, the minutes said participants continued to view a sustained economic expansion, strong labor market conditions, and inflation near the Fed's 2 percent target as the most likely outcomes over the next few years.

"Nevertheless, participants generally expected the growth rate of real GDP this year to step down from the pace seen over 2018 to a rate at or modestly above their estimates of longer-run growth," the Fed said.

A number of participants judged that economic growth in the remaining quarters of 2019 and in the subsequent couple of years would likely be a little lower than they had previously forecast.

The downward revisions were attributed to disappointing news on global growth and less of a boost from fiscal policy than had previously been anticipated.

The minutes noted that the meeting also featured continued discussions on options for transitioning to the longer-run size of the balance sheet.

On the U.S. economic front, the Labor Department released a report showing a spike in energy prices contributed to a slightly bigger than expected increase in consumer prices in the month of March.

The Labor Department said its consumer price index climbed by 0.4 percent in March after edging up by 0.2 percent in February. Economists had expected the index to rise by 0.3 percent.

Excluding the jump in energy prices and a modest increase in food prices, core consumer prices inched up by 0.1 percent in February, matching the uptick seen in the previous month. Core prices had been expected to tick up by 0.2 percent.

Sector News

Computer hardware stocks showed a significant move to the upside over the course of the session, driving the NYSE Arca Computer Hardware Index up by 1.8 percent to a six-month closing high.

Considerable strength was also visible among networking stocks, as reflected by the 1.5 percent gain posted by the NYSE Arca Networking Index.

Telecom, biotechnology, and oil service stocks also saw notable strength on the day, while considerable weakness emerged among gold stocks.

The weakness in the gold sector came despite an increase by the price of the precious metal, as gold for June delivery climbed $5.60 to $1,313.90 an ounce.

Other Markets

In overseas trading, stock markets across the Asia-Pacific region turned in a mixed performance during trading on Wednesday. Japan's Nikkei 225 Index fell by 0.5 percent, while China's Shanghai Composite Index inched up by 0.1 percent.

The major European markets also ended the day mixed. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index edged down by 0.1 percent, the French CAC 40 Index rose by 0.3 percent and the German DAX Index climbed by 0.5 percent.

In the bond market, treasuries extended the upward move seen in the previous session. Subsequently, the yield on the benchmark ten-year note, which moves opposite of its price, fell by 2.2 basis points to 2.477 percent.

Looking Ahead

Reports on weekly jobless claims and producer prices may attract attention on Thursday along with remarks by several Fed officials.

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