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Wall St rises as Fed“s Powell steers clear of monetary policy outlook


Traders work on the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., January 5, 2023. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Wall Street’s main indexes rose on Tuesday as Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell steered clear of commenting on the monetary policy outlook, with focus turning to an upcoming inflation reading scheduled for later this week.

Powell’s remarks, which offered no clues on the Fed’s plans for future tightening, came as a major relief after two other policymakers on Monday injected a note of caution over the interest rate outlook.

“He (Powell) hasn’t disrupted the market in any way and the fact that he stresses the need for political independence while tackling inflation, that’s a definite positive for the markets,” said Peter Cardillo, chief market economist at Spartan Capital Securities, New York.

Traders held on to bets of a 25-basis point rate hike at the U.S. central bank’s upcoming policy meeting in February, with the terminal rate seen slightly below 5% by June.

Markets have been hoping that the Fed could soon signal an end to its rate hiking cycle following recent signs of a slowdown in the U.S. economy, even as policymakers reiterate the central bank’s priority to bring inflation under control.

“The Fed has a little bit more tightening to do,” said David Russell, vice president of market intelligence at TradeStation Group, adding that Thursday’s inflation report will be crucial in shaping interest rate expectations.

The much-awaited consumer prices index (CPI) report from the U.S. Labor Department is expected to show some moderation in year-on-year prices in December.

The Fed’s aggressive monetary policy tightening to curb decades-high inflation hammered U.S. equities in 2022, with the three main indexes logging their steepest annual declines since 2008.

Fed Governor Michelle Bowman said on Tuesday the U.S. central bank will have to raise interest rates further to combat high inflation.

Among major S&P 500 sectors, retailers (.SPXRT) were up 0.8% and in the lead, while consumer discretionary stocks (.SPLRCD) rose 0.2%, with Inc (AMZN.O) driving gains in both the subindexes.

Healthcare stocks (.SPXHC) rose 0.5% and were also a major boost to the benchmark S&P 500 index.

At 11:59 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) was up 28.41 points, or 0.08%, at 33,546.06, the S&P 500 (.SPX) was up 2.71 points, or 0.07%, at 3,894.80, and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) was up 17.25 points, or 0.16%, at 10,652.90.

Broadcom Inc (AVGO.O) fell 3.4% on a report that Apple Inc (AAPL.O) plans to replace a Broadcom chip from its devices with an in-house design in 2025.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners for a 1.17-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and a 1.62-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded one new 52-week high and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 37 new highs and 20 new lows.