Wall Street ended higher on Wednesday as investors absorbed the minutes from the latest Federal Reserve meeting, which offered new clues on the central bank's rate policy and inflation fight.
After a brutal selloff in global equity markets in the first half of the year, nervous investors are keeping a close watch on central bank actions as they try to assess the impact of aggressive rate hikes on global growth.
They got their latest data point on Wednesday afternoon, when the minutes of the June 14-15 policy meeting detailed how the U.S. central bank was prompted to make an outsized interest rate increase and a firm restatement of its intent to get prices under control to address a deteriorating inflation situation and concern about lost faith in the Federal Reserve's power.
The 0.75 percentage-point rate increase which came out of the meeting was the first of that size since 1994. According to the minutes, participants judged that an increase of 50 or 75 basis points would likely be appropriate at the policy meeting later this month.
Prior to the minutes' publication, investors had been pricing in another 75-basis-point rate increase at the upcoming July 26-27 meeting, meaning the fact that both 50 basis points and 75 basis points remained on the table pointed toward the Fed acknowledging the impact of its rate rises on the economy.
The minutes reflected participants' concern about rate increases having a "larger-than-anticipated" impact on economic growth.
"I think people are heavily focused on the terminal rate of what the Federal Reserve's increases are, and the 50-75 debate just points towards where you end up," said Jason Pride, chief investment officer of private wealth at Glenmede.
He noted that a 50 basis-point hike would point toward a terminal rate of 3%, while 75 basis points indicated a peak of 3.25% or 3.5%. At 3.5% or above, the likelihood of recession is about 50%.
Prior to the publication of the minutes, all three Wall Street benchmarks had endured a seesaw session, and while there were further swings between positive and negative territory in the moments after the 2 p.m. EDT release, markets built solid gains for the rest of the day.
According to preliminary data, the S&P 500 gained 14.08 points, or 0.37%, to end at 3,845.47 points, while the Nasdaq Composite gained 39.96 points, or 0.35%, to 11,362.20. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 68.41 points, or 0.22%, to 31,036.23.
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