Stocks rise after Federal Reserve signals rate hike ‘soon’




The Wall St. street sign is framed by the American flags flying outside the New York Stock exchange, Friday, Jan. 14, 2022, in the Financial District. Stocks are opening with solid gains on Wall Street Wednesday, Jan. 26, led by technology stocks after Microsoft reported standout results for its latest quarter. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

Stocks gained ground in afternoon trading on Wall Street Wednesday after the Federal Reserve left its key interest rate unchanged, but signaled that it plans to begin raising interest rates as soon as March as the central bank moves to fight inflation.

In its latest policy statement, the Fed also said it would phase out its monthly bond purchases, which have been intended to lower longer-term rates, in March.

Stock indexes initially rose, then eased back to just below where they were before the Fed’s statement was released at 2:00 p.m. ET. The S&P 500 was up 1.1% as of 2:23 p.m. Eastern. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 216 points, or 0.6%, to 34,514 and the Nasdaq rose 2%.

The market was solidly higher prior to the release of the Fed statement, a turnaround following several days of volatile swings as investors try to gauge whether the Fed will succeed in its new effort to fight inflation. The central bank had been widely expected to continue drawing back its stimulus measures ahead of raising interest rates in the coming months.

Bond yields rose following the Fed’s statement. The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.80% from 1.78% from late Tuesday.

“The Fed statement was in line with the mention that it will be raising rates soon,” said Jay Hatfield, chief investment officer at ICAP in New York. “There was no mention of balance sheet reduction, which the market is interpreting as bullish.”

Technology stocks led the market higher. Microsoft rose 4.9% after reporting standout results for its latest quarter on solid demand for its cloud-computing services and work software. Chipmaker Texas Instruments rose 4% after giving investors a solid earnings report and financial forecast.

Retailers, communications companies, banks and industrial firms also rose. Strong earnings reports and financial forecasts underpinned some of the gains. Specialty glassware Corning rose 13.6% after reporting strong financial results.

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Several companies issued fresh warnings about supply chain problems crimping operations. Computer networking company F5 fell 10.8% after giving investors a disappointing revenue forecast as it faces supply chain constraints.

Consumer products maker Kimberly-Clark fell 3.8% after giving investors a weak profit forecast and saying that it expects the supply chain disruption to persist into 2022.

Pressure from inflation on businesses and consumers is what is driving the Fed to raise interest rates this year. There is some concern on Wall Street that Fed Chair Jerome Powell could suggest that the central bank will raise interest rates this year more than the four times that most economists currently expect.

For nearly two years, investors had poured money into stocks, confident that the Federal Reserve would help keep share prices upright. With that support going away, markets have been hit with a bout of volatility. The S&P 500 is down 7.3% so far this year.

Markets rose following the Fed’s last policy meeting in mid-December. It wasn’t until three weeks later, in early January, that stocks turned jittery. That’s when minutes released from that meeting suggested Fed policymakers may be more zealous about fighting inflation through higher interest rates than many had been expecting.

Investors knew that higher rates were on the way, but the minutes showed that the Fed was likely to raise rates faster than in prior efforts to get rates back to normal. Perhaps more impactfully, the Fed also said it was likely to be quicker than in the past to reduce its huge holdings of bonds it had bought up through the pandemic to keep longer-term interest rates low. That would have a similar effect as additional rate increases.

Investors are also gauging the threat from COVID-19 and the omicron wave’s impact on economic growth. The International Monetary Fund cited the omicron variant as the reason it downgraded its forecast for global economic growth this year.

Wall Street is also carefully watching the potential conflict between Russia and Ukraine, which could push energy prices higher and force nations to focus on a war just as they are trying to focus on keeping the virus pandemic in check, along with economic growth.

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AP Business Writer Stan Choe contributed.

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