Wednesday's early trade: stocks rise ahead of Fed minutes

Fed officials unsure about raising rates

Threats to economy spurred Fed to hit pause on rate hikes, minutes show

"December FOMC communications were reportedly perceived by market participants as not fully appreciating the implications of tighter financial conditions and softening global data over recent months for the USA economic outlook", the minutes said.

Federal Reserve policymakers on Wednesday (Feb 20) gave little sense of how long their "patient" stance on USA interest rate policy would last, and while promising "before too long" a plan for their US$4 trillion (S$5.4 trillion) balance sheet, left unclear what that plan would entail.

Research staff presented options at the meeting for "substantially slowing" the runoff of the Fed's balance sheet, "at some point over the latter half of this year".

"The upshot is we now expect the Fed to leave rates unchanged throughout this year, " said Paul Ashworth, chief United States economist at Capital Economics.

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On Tuesday, Trump said trade discussions with China were going well and suggested he was open to extending the deadline to complete the negotiations, saying March 1 was not a "magical" date.

It was assumed until now that USA tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports would rise to 25 percent from 10 percent if no trade deal was reached by then. "I get the sense that rates are on hold until later this year".

Trade-exposed stocks such as Boeing Co and Caterpillar Inc rose more than 1 percent, boosting the Dow.

The healthcare sector fell 0.35 percent, weighed by a 7.2 percent fall in CVS Health Corp after the drugstore chain operator missed full-year profit forecast.

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On the earnings front, shares of CVS Health tumbled more than 8 percent to close at 64.22 USA dollars apiece after the company reported mixed quarterly earnings result.

Immediately following the release of the minutes, longer dated yields continued the day's trajectory higher, but rose slower than shorter-dated yields, with the benchmark 10-year yield up 0.7 basis point to 2.652 percent and the yield on the 30-year bond last up 1.3 basis points to 3.001 percent. The S&P 500 was down 0.06 points, or 0.00 percent, at 2,779.70 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 15.12 points, or 0.20 percent, at 7,501.88.

The carrier dragged down shares of other airlines, sending the Dow Jones US Airlines index down 2.6 per cent.

Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.93-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.43-to-1 ratio favoured advancers.

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The S&P 500 posted 38 new 52-week highs and no new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 99 new highs and 17 new lows.

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