OIL CRASHES, FED MINUTES LEAK: Here's what you need to know

Stocks climbed well off the lows of the day after minutes from the Federal Reserve’s July meeting leaked. The Dow lost more than 200 points in early trade, rallied after the minutes, and retreated again in the late-afternoon. Crude oil sank to a fresh six-year low, while gold climbed to a four-week high.

First, the scoreboard:

  • Dow: 17,345.68, -165.66, (-0.95%)
  • S&P 500: 2,078.44, -18.48, (-0.88%)
  • Nasdaq: 5,016.64, -42.70, (-0.84%)

And now, the top stories on Wednesday:

  1. We got the minutes of the Federal Reserve’s July meeting earlier than we should have. Bloomberg leaked a headline around 1:36 p.m. ET on the terminal that said “most Fed officials in July saw conditions for rate rise nearing.” In a statement, the company said it “inadvertently sent a headline ahead of the embargo.” This is the second Fed-related leak within a month; In late July, the Fed disclosed that its staff economic projections had been accidentally published on its website.
  2. The minutes showed that one member was willing to raise rates last month, but others felt the economic pre-conditions had not been met. Most members thought the labour market was very close to maximum employment. They lowered their outlook for inflation following the downturn in energy prices. And, China came up: “Several participants noted that a material slowdown in Chinese economic activity could pose risks to the U.S. economic outlook.”
  3. Inflation was tepid in July. The consumer price index came in at 0.1% month-over-month (0.2% estimated), and 0.1% on a ‘core’ basis excluding volatile food and energy costs (0.2% expected). A 5.6% plunge in airline tickets — the biggest in nearly 20 years – weighed down the index. The energy index climbed 0.1%, as higher gas prices offset declines in other energy components. And, shelter inflation, or housing prices, continued to soar as they have, in contrast to the overall trend.
  4. Crude oil fell to a new six-year low. West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures in New York plunged more than 4% to as low as $US40.97 in New York. Data from the Energy Information Administration showed that oil inventories unexpectedly climbed by 2.6 million barrels last week. Inventories are still at a level not seen at this time of year for the past 80 years.
  5. Chinese stocks had a wild day, rebounding to the green after the benchmark Shanghai Composite fell more than 5% in early trade. There had been speculation that the People’s Bank of China may cut the reserve-ratio requirements for banks by 50 basis points this weekend.

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