Stocks went nowhere on Wednesday as the market was focused on the Minutes from the Federal Reserve’s January meeting, which showed that the Fed is prepared to keep interest rates at zero for longer.
First, the scoreboard:
- Dow: 18,025.7, -21.9, (-0.1%)
- S&P 500: 2,099.3, -1, (-0.05%)
- Nasdaq: 4,904.9, +5.7, (+0.1%)
And now, the top stories on Wednesday:
1. It was all about the Fed on Wednesday, as the Minutes from the January FOMC meeting were released, showing that the Fed is comfortable keeping rates at zero for longer. The Minutes showed that a number of FOMC members saw the risks weighted towards raising rates too early, with at least one member recommending more policy accommodation, not less. Regarding the economic outlook, the Minutes showed that the Fed saw the economy showing activity expanding at a solid pace over the second half of 2014 with labour market conditions again improving in recent months. The January FOMC meeting took place before the latest jobs report, which showed that payrolls continue to grow at a solid pace.
2. In the Minutes, the Fed expressed concern regarding the liquidity of the bond and loan mutual fund markets, saying that, “the increased role of bond and loan mutual funds, in conjunction with other factors, may have increased the risk that liquidity pressures could emerge in related markets if investor appetite for such assets wanes.”
In an email on Wednesday, Deutsche Bank’s Torsten Sløk laid out the Fed’s “master plan.”
3. In Greece news, reports from Dow Jones on Wednesday said that the European Central Bank has extended its liquidity program to Greek banks by two weeks. An AFP report said the ECB did not just extend its program but increased the funding available to Greek banks.
4. Yale professor Robert Shiller appeared on CNBC on Wednesday and said, “I’m thinking about getting out of the United States, somewhat … Europe is so much cheaper.” Shiller famously predicted the dot-com and housing bubbles, and said that he has already invested in some indexes in Italy and Spain. Shiller added that half of his money is in stocks and that is not hedging currencies.
5. On the economic data front, housing starts in January declined 2% to an annualized rate of 1.065 million, a bit below what economists had been expecting. “Adverse weather across the Midwest and Northeast was likely a factor in restraining activity,” Barclays’ Michael Gapen said following the report.
6. Energy prices continue to weigh on inflation across the economy, with the latest report on producer prices showing prices fell 0.8% month-on-month in January, more than the 0.4% decline that had been expected. Excluding the more volatile costs of food and energy, “core” PPI still declined by 0.1%, more than the 0.1% increase that was expected.
7. The Federal Reserve released its latest report on industrial production, showing that production rose 0.2% in January, a bit less than the 0.3% increase that was expected, while capacity utilization declined to 79.4% from 79.9% the prior month. The big declines were in the energy sector, as production in energy declined by 5% over last year.