The major domestic equity indexes were relatively unchanged on Wednesday, with telecom services being among the largest movers, while the energy sector rose in line with gains in crude oil.
Verizon and AT&T rose 2.0 percent and 1.6 percent respectively on the idea that they will benefit from the government’s plan to rescind net neutrality rules put in place by the Obama administration. With three Republican and two Democratic commissioners, the Federal Communications Commission is all but certain to approve the change.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise Chief Executive Meg Whitman said she would step down in February, sending the company’s shares down 7.2 percent to $13.10. HP, which holds the computer and printer business that Whitman carved out of Hewlett Packard, lost 5.0 percent after reporting an unimpressive profit.
Many Federal Reserve policymakers expect interest rates to be raised in the “near term,” according to the minutes of the Fed’s most recent policy meeting released on Wednesday. Wall Street was not surprised by the minutes and the market barely moved after their release.
Qualcomm rose 2.2 percent after Reuters reported Broadcom is considering raising its offer to buy its larger rival by offering more of its own stock.
Deere rose 4.3 percent to $145.25 and touched a record high of $146.00 after reporting upbeat quarterly earnings and forecasting strong earnings in the coming year.
Trading volumes were thin ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday and an early close on Friday.
Approximately 5.18 billion shares changed hands on the major domestic equity exchanges, as compared to a 6.66 billion share daily average over the last 20 trading sessions. By comparison, last year’s volume during the session before the Thanksgiving holiday was 6.51 billion shares.
Rate Hike is Coming
The Fed’s policymakers expect that interest rates will have to be raised in the “near term,” according to the minutes of the Fed’s last policy meeting that were released on Wednesday afternoon at 2:00 P.M.
The minutes from the October 31-November 1 meeting, at which the Fed kept rates unchanged, indicated that policymakers generally agreed the economy was poised for strong growth. Several Fed officials also saw improved chances that Congress would pass significant tax cuts that would increase business investment.
While some at the Fed felt they still needed to see more data before deciding the timing of a rate hike, many were of the opinion that the jobless rate appeared to be too low for inflation to remain at its current weak level.
“Participants expected solid growth in consumer spending in the near term, supported by ongoing strength in the labor market,” the Fed wrote in the minutes. “Many participants thought that another increase in the target range for the federal funds rate was likely to be warranted in the near term.”
The meeting marked one of the last policy reviews to be attended by Fed Chair Janet Yellen, who announced on Monday she would resign from her seat on the Fed’s Board of Governors once Jerome Powell is confirmed and sworn in to replace her as head of the central bank. Powell is expected to be in place when Yellen’s four-year term as Fed chief ends in February.
In the minutes, policymakers engaged in what has become a regular debate over why inflation has remained below the Fed’s two percent target for several years. Most members agreed that tightness in the labor market would likely fuel higher inflation in the medium term.
Some of the members who vote on policy, however, expressed concern over the inflation outlook, according to the minutes. These policymakers emphasized they would be looking at upcoming economic data before deciding the timing of future rate rises.
A couple of policymakers were concerned enough about persistently weak price gains that they suggested the Fed consider a new framework in which it committed to allowing higher inflation to make up for periods of low price rises.
Since the last policy meeting, Yellen has stuck by her prediction that inflation will soon rebound toward the Fed’s target, although on Tuesday she said she is “very uncertain” about this and is open to the possibility that prices could remain low for years to come.