Summary

The major domestic equity indexes closed well into the red on Wednesday as energy sector shares fell for a fourth straight session, tracking crude prices, while a late run-up was thwarted by concerns over the passage of a tax revamp after Republican senators were critical of the proposal.

Oil prices fell for a fourth session after data indicated an unexpected increase in crude and gasoline stockpiles. The S&P 500 energy sector index chalked up a four-day decline of 4 percent, its weakest such period in 14 months.

Exxon closed out the trading day down 1.3 percent to $81.21 and Schlumberger ended the day down 2.0 percent to $61.55 after touching $61.11, its lowest since January 2016.

Brent and domestic crude were both lower after touching their highest level last week in almost 2-1/2 years.

Republican U.S. Senator Ron Johnson said he opposes his party’s Senate tax revamp proposal, the Wall Street Journal reported, while Senator Susan Collins, also a Republican, warned that some middle-income taxpayers could see tax cuts wiped out by higher health insurance premiums if the repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s mandate goes through with the tax bill.

Their comments leave the passage of the tax plan in limbo as the GOP cannot afford to lose more than two votes. Analysts have said the slashing of the corporate tax to 20 percent from its current 35 percent would likely be a boon for the stock market.

The CBOE volatility index reached a 2-month high at 14.51 and ended up 1.5 points at 13.13.

A rise in both inflation and retail sales sent a signal to the Federal Reserve, which had been concerned about a recent disinflationary trend, setting the Fed on a path to raise interest rates in December.

Among the few Wall Street gainers on Wednesday were financial stocks, which rose on prospects of further rate hikes. The S&P 500 bank index closed out the day up 0.61 percent.

Target saw its share price fall 9.9 percent to $54.16 after the retailer issued an earnings forecast that was less than the Street wanted to see for the always important holiday quarter.

After the closing bell, Cisco rose 4.6 percent after the company reported a 3.1 percent rise in quarterly earnings, driven by growth in its newer business areas.

Approximately 6.62 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, a number that was slightly lower than the 6.79 billion share daily average over the past 20 trading sessions.

CPI and Retail Sales Gain

Consumer prices were up a slight bit during October as the rise in gasoline prices from hurricane-related disruptions to Gulf Coast oil refineries was unwound, but rising rents and healthcare costs pointed to a gradual buildup of underlying inflation.

At the same time, the continuing low inflation is helping to underpin consumer spending. Case in point, other day on Wednesday indicated that retail sales rose ast month as heavy price discounting by automobile manufacturers lifted purchases of motor vehicles.

Meanwhile, the increase in retail sales combined with a firming of underlying price pressures likely will keep the Federal Reserve on course to raise interest rates next month.

According to a report by the Labor Department on Wednesday morning, the Consumer Price Index edged up 0.1 percent last month after the 0.5 percent increase last September. That lowered the year-on-year increase in the CPI to 2.0 percent from 2.2 percent in September.

The overall price of gasoline fell 2.4 percent after the 13.1 percent increase in September. That was the largest gain since June 2009. September’s rise in gasoline prices followed Hurricane Harvey, which struck Texas in late August and disrupted production at oil refineries in the Gulf Coast region.

Food prices were unchanged after moving up 0.1 percent in September. Excluding the volatile food and energy components, consumer prices rose 0.2 percent in October amid a pickup in the cost of rental accommodation, healthcare costs, tobacco and a range of other goods and services.

The so-called core CPI gained 0.1 percent in September. October’s increase lifted the year-on-year increase in the core CPI to 1.8 percent. The year-on-year core CPI had increased by 1.7 percent for five straight months.

The slight pickup in the monthly core CPI could offer some comfort to Fed officials amid concerns that stubbornly low inflation might reflect not only temporary factors but developments that could prove more persistent.

The Fed’s preferred inflation measure, the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index excluding food and energy, has been consistently below the Fed’s 2 percent target for more than five years. The Fed has lifted borrowing costs twice this year and has projected three rate increases in 2018.

Owners’ equivalent rent of primary residence climbed 0.3 percent in October, on the heels of September’s 0.2 percent increase. The cost of hospital services increased 0.5 percent and prices for doctor visits rose 0.2 percent. There were also increases in prices for wireless phone services, airline fares, education and motor vehicle insurance.

Prices for used cars and trucks rose 0.7 percent, ending nine straight months of declines. New motor vehicle prices, however, fell for a second consecutive month as manufacturers resorted to deep discounting to eliminate an inventory overhang.

The Commerce Department indicated on Wednesday that retail sales increased 0.2 percent last month. Data for September was revised to show sales increasing 1.9 percent, which was the largest gain since March 2015, rather than the previously reported 1.6 percent advance. Retail sales increased 4.6 percent on an annual basis.

The slowdown in retail sales last month from September’s pace largely reflected an unwinding of the increase to building materials and gasoline prices after recent hurricanes.

Receipts at auto dealerships increased 0.7 percent after soaring 4.6 percent in September, supported by the deep price discounting by manufacturers. Sales at gardening and building material stores fell 1.2 percent last month after rising 3.0 percent in September.

Receipts at service stations decreased 1.2 percent in October. That followed a 6.4 percent gain in September. Excluding automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food services, retail sales increased 0.3 percent last month after climbing 0.5 percent in September.

These so-called core retail sales correspond most closely with the consumer spending component of gross domestic product. Last month’s increase in core retail sales indicated a healthy pace of consumer spending at the start of the fourth quarter.

Consumer spending, which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity, increased at a 2.4 percent annualized rate in the third quarter.