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While you were sleeping: Fed support intact

Wall Street rose, extending gains after the latest Federal Reserve meeting minutes eased concern that US policy makers had been planning to raise interest rates sooner than had been anticipated.

The Fed released minutes from the March 18-19 Federal Open Market Committee meeting were released at 6am New Zealand time. Fed Chair Janet Yellen's comments at the end of that meeting, saying rates could rise as early as the first half of 2015, had triggered concern the central bank was becoming less accommodative.

And the FOMC minutes showed some policy makers were wary of exactly that misinterpretation by investors.

"A number of participants noted the overall upward shift since December in participants' projections of the federal funds rate included in the March SEP [summary of economic projections], with some expressing concern that this component of the SEP could be misconstrued as indicating a move by the Committee to a less accommodative reaction function," according to the minutes released today. "However, several participants noted that the increase in the median projection overstated the shift in the projections.

"Most participants favoured providing an explicit indication in the statement that the new forward guidance, taken as a whole, did not imply a change in the Committee's policy intentions, on the grounds that such an indication could help forestall misinterpretation of the new forward guidance," the minutes showed.

In afternoon trading in New York, the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 0.97 percent, the Standard & Poor's 500 Index rose 0.75 percent, while the Nasdaq Composite Index increased 1.36 percent. The Dow was up about 0.5 percent prior to the Fed minutes being released.

Shares of Merck and Boeing advanced, last up 2.9 percent and 2 percent respectively, propelling the Dow higher.

"People are taking solace in the idea that the Fed may be more accommodative than previously thought, for longer than previously thought," Steve Sosnick, equity-risk manager at Timber Hill/Interactive Brokers Group in Greenwich, Connecticut, told Reuters.

Two-year notes also rose as a result, pushing yields three basis points lower to 0.37 percent.

"It's dovish for the rates market because it initially sold off because they thought participants were expecting a sooner and faster hiking cycle," Shyam Rajan, an interest-rate strategist at Bank of America, one of 22 primary dealers that trade with the Fed, told Bloomberg News. "The fact that they are playing it down is bullish."

There were more reasons for optimism. Shares of Alcoa rose, last up 3.4 percent, after the company reported earnings that were better than anticipated, setting a positive tone to the start of the quarterly US results season.

In Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index finished the session with a 0.4 percent increase from the previous close, as did France's CAC 40. Germany's DAX rose 0.2 percent, while the UK's FTSE 100 gained 0.7 percent.

(BusinessDesk)