Market Snapshot: U.S. stock market edges higher after Fed minutes

The Dow industrials was switching between gains and losses on Thursday, as investors remained cautious ahead of minutes from the Federal Reserve’s most recent policy-setting meeting.

Meanwhile, the Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, +0.01%  was slumping, weighed down by a 2.5% drop in the biotech sector IBB, -0.93% The tech-heavy index was shedding 34 points, or 0.7%, at 4,747.

The blue-chips index DJIA, +0.53%  were 23 points, or 0.1%, higher at 16,935, with DuPont DD, +1.57%  leading gainers, up about 2%. Apple Inc. AAPL, -1.20% off nearly 2%, was weighing on the benchmark average.

The S&P 500 SPX, +0.51%  was little changed in afternoon trade at 1995, as the broad stock-market index tried to break above the psychologically important 2,000 level. Losses in health-care and technology stocks were slightly outweighing gains in materials and utilities, limiting moves in the index. Six of its 10 main sectors trading higher.

“The market has used up most of its internal energy when it rallied hard last week. What we are seeing now is a pause as markets need to gain some strength before the next rally,” said Jeffrey D. Saut, chief investment strategist at Raymond James & Associates.

Investors hope the Fed minutes might shed some light into policy makers decision over impending interest-rate hikes. Fed minutes are expected to be released at 2 p.m. Eastern Time.

Saut expects the S&P 500 to climb to 2,030 over the next couple of weeks and finish higher at the year-end.

Others noted that investors are also cashing in on some gains for U.S. stocks. “The markets have been boosted by the prospect of an interest-rate increase being pushed back to next year, following last week’s poor jobs report,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at Oanda, in emailed comments.

Need to know: Why this stock-market rebound isn’t just a ‘flash in the pan’

Fed minutes ahead: Some insight on the Fed’s thinking could come with the release of the minutes of the Sept. 17 Fed meeting. In particular, markets will be looking for more clues on why the central bank held back on an interest-rate hike. They are also likely to focus on what the U.S. central bankers thought about China and job creation. September saw a unexpectedly sharp drop in payrolls.

The jobless claims reported showed the number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits fell by 13,000 to 263,000 in the week ended Oct. 3, marking the lowest level since mid-July.

Stocks to watch: Investors will also be braced for the unofficial kickoff to earnings season, which comes after the close of trading Thursday with earnings from Alcoa Inc. AA, +0.78% Shares in Alcoa were down 1.6%.

The aluminum producer is expected to post a year-over-year profit decline for the first time in six quarters. It could lead out what’s expected to be the weakest reporting season in six years for S&P 500 companies.

Shares of Encana Corp. ECA, +6.74%  rose 3.6% after Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) and The Broe Group said they have agreed to buy oil and gas assets from the company for a value of about $ 900 million.

Dell Inc. is in talks to combine with EMC Corp. EMC, +4.41% according to people familiar with the matter, reported The Wall Street Journal late Wednesday. EMC shares rose 4.9%.

Shares of Inc. AMZN, -1.74%  fell 2.3% after a Bloomberg report that the online retailer could be showing interest in launching a live, online TV service. Etsy ETSY, -2.40%  shares fell 5% after Amazon announced the launch of a rival to the online crafts marketplace.

Other markets: The Shanghai Composite Index SHCOMP, +2.97%  closed up just under 3%, as that market reopened after a five-session holiday break, but the gain wasn’t enough to satisfy investors. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index HSCEI, -1.03%  rallied 11.5%, while the Chinese market was closed, and investors had expected bigger gains from China, said Angus Nicholson, market analyst at IG.

Also read: China could become a big problem for stocks again

The Nikkei 225 index NIK, -0.99%  finished down nearly 1%, after weak Japanese machinery orders prompted buying of the Japanese yen USDJPY, -0.03% which rose against the U.S. dollar.

European stocks SXXP, +0.19%  traded mixed, with the FTSE 100 index UKX, +0.61% on track for a seven-day winning streak. The Bank of England left key interest rates unchanged at the conclusion of its rate-setting meeting.

Oil prices CLX5, +3.41%  continued to gain, though a surprise rise in U.S. inventories was keeping that advance in check. Oil futures were up 1.3%. Gold prices GCZ5, -0.50% declined 0.8%. – Top Stories

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