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S&P closes slightly higher after Fed minutes feed stable rate view

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Chuck Mikolajczak
·3 min read
FILE PHOTO: The front facade of the NYSE is seen in New York
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By Chuck Mikolajczak

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Major averages hovered near unchanged on Wednesday, with the S&P 500 closing up slightly after the Federal Reserve released minutes from its most recent meeting that reinforced the U.S. central bank's position to remain patient before raising rates.

The major indexes held near unchanged for most of the day but the S&P 500 briefly climbed to a session high after the minutes, in which Fed officials said it would likely take "some time" for substantial further progress on goals of maximum employment and stable prices.

The gains were minor and short-lived. Many market participants question whether the Fed will hold off so long on a rate hike.

"We thought we were going to get something new from the minutes of the Fed meeting, we were oddly mistaken on that one," said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Securities in New York.

"The Fed has been more transparent all of this year about where they stand and they really are not budging from that stance."

The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note moved higher late in the session, yet remained below a 14-month high of 1.776% hit on March 30. The recent pullback in yields has helped growth names and lifted technology and communication services stocks as the best performing sectors on the day.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 16.02 points, or 0.05%, to 33,446.26, the S&P 500 gained 6.01 points, or 0.15%, to 4,079.95 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 9.54 points, or 0.07%, to 13,688.84.

Value stocks, which include economically sensitive sectors such as materials and industrials, maintain a strong lead this year over their growth counterparts, dominantly tech-related firms.

However, a resurgence in demand for tech stocks in recent sessions amid renewed restrictions in Canada and parts of Europe has raised questions over the longevity of the value trade.

Growth stocks, up 0.28%, outperformed value shares, which were down 0.16% during the session.

The graphic on 1-year spread between growth and value stocks:

https://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/mkt/ygdvzjazavw/Pasted%20image%201609347068175.png

The upcoming earnings season and progress in a multitrillion-dollar infrastructure proposal could decide Wall Street's path forward.

Analysts have raised expectations for first-quarter S&P 500 earnings increase to 24.2%, according to Refinitiv IBES data as of April 1, versus 21% forecast on Feb. 5.

But the sharp run up in earnings expectations could leave the market primed for disappointment.

JPMorgan Chase & Co Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said the United States could be in store for an economic boom through 2023 if more adults get vaccinated and federal spending continues.

Prison operator GEO Group fell 20.38% after suspending quarterly dividend payments.

Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 1.38-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 2.22-to-1 ratio favored decliners.

The S&P 500 posted 32 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 63 new highs and 34 new lows.

Volume on U.S. exchanges was 9.41 billion shares, the third straight session marking the lowest daily volume of the year, compared with the 12.16 billion average for the full session over the last 20 trading days.

(Reporting by Chuck Mikolajczak; Editing by David Gregorio)