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US stocks little changed ahead of Fed announcement

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on the afternoon of March 4, 2014
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on the afternoon of March 4, 2014 in New York City

Wall Street stocks were little changed in early trade Wednesday ahead of a policy statement from the US Federal Reserve that could spell out its interest rate plans.

About 35 minutes into trade, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 15.18 (0.09 percent) to 16,351.37.

The broad-based S&P 500 ticked 0.61 (0.03 percent) higher to 1,872.86, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index slipped 3.56 (0.03 percent) to 4,330.53..

The Fed is widely expected to continue paring its bond-buying program when it releases its policy statement at 1800 GMT.

Less clear is how the central bank will handle questions about its guidance to keep interest rates very low. The Fed has previously set a 6.5 percent jobless rate as a threshold for a shift in policy.

But Fed Chair Janet Yellen is expected to de-link interest rate plans from that threshold since the official unemployment rate has already fallen to 6.7 percent.

FedEx advanced 0.1 percent after reporting earnings of $1.23 per share, below the $1.46 forecast by analysts. The company said its package-delivery business was hit by severe winter weather.

General Mills also cited the weather as a factor that depressed sales. Earnings at the food company met expectations but revenues of $4.38 billion lagged the $4.41 billion expected by analysts. Shares rose 0.6 percent.

Software giant Oracle fell 2.9 percent after earnings of 68 cents per share missed estimates of 70 cents per share.

Adobe Systems meanwhile topped expectations, reporting earnings of 30 cents per share, better than the 25 cents forecast by analysts. Shares dipped 0.6 percent.

Dow member JPMorgan Chase announced a $3.5 billion agreement to sell its commodities business to Mercuria Energy Group Limited, a Swiss trading firm. JPMorgan shares rose 0.3 percent.

Builder KB Home shot up 7.9 percent as it reported a 21 percent rise in potential future housing revenues from orders to $851.6 million. The company also reported net income of $10.6 million, compared with a loss of $12.5 million in the year-ago period.

Bond prices were mixed. The yield on the 10-year US Treasury bond held steady at 2.68 percent, while the 30-year slipped to 3.62 percent from 3.63 percent Tuesday. Bond prices and yields move inversely.

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