The major domestic equity indexes were lower on Wednesday, except for the Nasdaq, which closed well into positive territory due to the strength of tech stocks.
The legal woes of two former advisers to Trump contributed to caution on Wednesday, while the release of the Federal Open Market Committee’s minutes from its last policy meeting had only a fleeting impact on the major equity major indexes.
The Fed discussed raising interest rates soon to counter excessive economic strength but also examined how global trade disputes could batter businesses and households.
The S&P 500’s energy index rose 1.2 percent as oil prices moved higher, while retailers gained after Target and Lowe’s reported strong quarterly results. The biggest aid to the S&P 500 came from technology stock The technology index was up 0.5 percent for the day.
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was found guilty of tax and bank fraud charges on Tuesday evening, while Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to a range of charges and said he acted at the direction of Trump.
Investors are considering whether the twin setback will hurt the Republican Party’s election prospects and widen a criminal probe that has overshadowed Trump’s presidency.
On Tuesday, the S&P 500 reached an all-time intraday high but ended the session below that level.
The S&P’s bull-market run has now stretched for 3,453 days, the longest streak by commonly used definitions, and comes a day after it hit a record intraday high.
Target shares touched an all-time high after the retailer beat quarterly estimates and raised its full-year profit forecast. Target shares ended the session up 3.2 percent.
Lowe’s shares also hit a record high after the home improvement chain promised to cut back slow-moving products and unsuccessful business projects. They closed up 5.8 percent.
Shares of Hartford Financial Services Group Inc (HIG.N) dropped 4.2 percent after the insurer said it will buy Navigators Group Inc (NAVG.O) in a $2.1 billion cash deal. Navigators’ shares jumped 8.8 percent to $69.90, just below Hartford’s offer of $70 a share.
Approximately 5.26 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity indexes, as compared to the 6.42 billion average over the past 20 trading days.
Higher Interest Rates Are Coming
According to the minutes of the Fed’s last policy meeting, Fed officials discussed raising interest rates soon to counter excessive economic strength but also examined how global trade disputes could batter businesses and households.
The Fed, which released the readout from its July 31-Aug. 1 meeting on Wednesday, has been raising rates gradually since 2015 and is now concerned the economy is so strong that inflation could rise persistently above its 2 percent target.
Fed members left rates unchanged at their last meeting, but their discussion made it clear they are considering another rate hike soon. The Fed has raised rates twice this year and is widely expected to tighten policy again next month.
“Many participants suggested that if incoming data continued to support their current economic outlook, it would likely soon be appropriate to take another step in removing policy accommodation,” according to the minutes.
Fed policymakers generally noted that household and businesses spending appeared to have “considerable momentum,” according to the minutes.
Fed officials also generally expected the economy would grow at a fast-enough rate to put upward pressure on inflation, which recently has come close to the central bank’s target. With interest rates rising, many members said the Fed would soon have to stop describing monetary policy as giving a boost to the economy.
At the same time, policymakers held an ample discussion about the risks to the economy from simmering trade tensions. The Trump administration has raised tariffs on imports from a range of countries, including China and members of the European Union, triggering retaliatory tariffs on U.S. exports.
The discussion outlined the tough situation the Fed could find itself in should the trade disputes worsen, with domestic businesses potentially needing to scale back hiring and consumers possibly facing higher prices on imports. The Fed is tasked by law with fostering full employment and steady prices.
“All participants pointed to ongoing trade disputes as an important source of uncertainty and risks,” according to the minutes.
Policymakers pointed out that a large prolonged trade dispute could hurt business sentiment, investment spending and employment. Wide-ranging tariff increases would reduce the purchasing power of U.S. households, according to the minutes.
The minutes also gave an indication the Fed was preparing to debate once again how best to implement its monetary policy, including what to do with its swollen balance sheet.
The Fed went on a bond-buying spree to fight the 2007-2009 recession and has yet to decide how many bonds it wants to hold over the long term. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said a discussion on the operating framework of monetary policy would likely take place “in the fall,” according to the minutes.
Trump told Reuters on Monday he was “not thrilled” with Powell’s Fed for raising interest rates and said the central bank should do more to boost the economy.
Job Gain Numbers to Be Revised
According to comments by the Labor Department on Wednesday, the economy likely created 43,000 more jobs in the 12 months through March than previously estimated,.
The marginal increase, which the Labor Department said represented less than a 0.05 percent gain versus current estimates, is a preliminary estimate of the government’s annual “benchmark” revision to nonfarm payrolls data.
Job growth in the U.S. economy remains relatively strong despite the labor market being near full employment.
Once a year, the government compares its nonfarm payrolls data, based on monthly surveys of a sample of employers, with a much more complete database of unemployment insurance tax records.
A final benchmark revision will be published in February along with the employment report for January. Government statisticians will use the final benchmark count to revise payrolls data for months both prior to and after March 2018.