The US markets closed mostly lower on Wednesday, while Dow eked out a slight gain to log its best record-setting streak in three decades. The broader equity benchmarks struggled as Federal Reserve minutes implied that the central bank is comfortable with raising interest rates fairly soon. Many Federal Reserve officials indicated their support for raising rates if the economy continued to strengthen, according to the minutes of the Fed meeting earlier this month. But the transcript also showed a mood of uncertainty over President Donald Trump’s fiscal policy plans, which have been the biggest boost to stocks during the past few months. Most officials said it would take some time for the outlook on fiscal policy to become clearer. And only a couple of the 17 Fed officials argued that uncertainty over fiscal policy should not delay a near-term rate hike. More Fed officials cautioned against adjusting interest rates in anticipation of policy proposals that might not be enacted, or that, if enacted might turn out to have different consequences for economic activity and inflation than currently anticipated. There was no discussion of shrinking the Fed’s $4.5 trillion balance sheet other than to agree to talk about it at later meetings. The minutes show that many Fed business contacts suggested that while they were more optimistic, they were awaiting more clarity about federal policy before adjusting capital spending and hiring. Some were worried their businesses could be hurt by the new administration’s plans. Through it all, the majority of Fed officials backed gradual rate hikes. A smaller minority warned that rate hikes might have to be increased rapidly. An even smaller group wanted to go very slow.
On the economy front, sales of previously-owned homes hurtled to the highest in a decade in January, a sign of durable demand in the face of higher mortgage rates and leaner supply. Existing-home sales ran at a seasonally adjusted annual pace of 5.69 million, the National Association of Realtors said. That was 3.3% above an upwardly-revised 5.51 million in December and 3.8% higher than a year ago. There were 3.6 months’ worth of homes available for sale in January, the 20th consecutive month in which inventory declined on a yearly basis. Homes available for sale declined 7.1% compared to a year ago – even as prices spiked 7.1% higher. The median price was $228,900. Most regions had sales increases in January. The one exception was in the Midwest, where sales dropped 1.5%.
The Nasdaq was down 5.32 points or 0.09 percent to 5,860.63, S&P 500 dropped 2.56 points or 0.11 percent to 2,362.82, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average added 32.60 points or 0.16 percent to 20,775.60.
The Indian ADRs closed mostly in red; HDFC Bank was down 0.40%, Infosys was down 0.25%, ICICI Bank was down 0.09% and Dr. Reddy’s Lab was down 0.08%. On the other hand, Tata Motors was up 0.03%.