Stocks are moving higher in midday trading Wednesday as investors wait for minutes from the Federal Reserve’s last policy meeting for clues as to whether it may raise interest rates next month. Banks rose in anticipation of higher rates, while utilities and other high-dividend stocks fell. Retailers dropped after Target reported weak sales.
KEEPING SCORE: The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose two points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 17,532 at 12:09 p.m. Eastern time. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose three points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,050. The Nasdaq composite gained 25 points, or 0.5 percent, to 4,741.
HIGHER RATES? Traders will be studying the minutes from the Fed’s meeting later Wednesday for clues as to how worried policymakers are about a pickup in inflation. Some investors are concerned the central bank will raise rates even though the economy is barely growing, up just 0.5 percent in the first quarter.
THE QUOTE: “There is little room for error,” said Tom Cassidy, chief investment officer at Univest Wealth Management Division. “When you’re growing slowly, any hiccup could result in a recession.”
TARGET TUMBLE: Target plunged $6.49, or 9 percent, to $67.12 after reporting that earnings beat expectations but that sales had slowed. The company also gave a forecast that disappointed investors.
RETAILER ROUT: Shares of many other retailers followed Target lower in what is shaping up to be a miserable year for the sector. Wal-Mart dropped nearly 3 percent and Costco Wholesale lost 2.5 percent.
BANK BOOST: JPMorgan Chase jumped 3 percent and Goldman Sachs climbed 2.5 percent, the two biggest gainers in the Dow index, as investors anticipate bigger profits on future loans. Higher interest rates tend to widen the gap between what banks pay depositors for their money and what they charge when they lend the money out.
LIFT AT LOWE’S: The home improvement chain Lowe’s rose $2.40, or 3 percent, to $78.47 on surging first-quarter profits and higher comparable-store sales. The company also raised its outlook for the year as it benefits from a strengthening U.S. housing market.
EUROPE’S DAY: Germany’s DAX and France’s CAX 40 each rose 0.5 percent. Britain’s FTSE 100 was unchanged.
ASIA’S DAY: Japan’s Nikkei 225 index was flat. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 1.5 percent. South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.6 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.7 percent.
ENERGY: U.S. crude oil rose 46 cents to $48.77 a barrel in New York, adding to a string of gains. Brent crude, used to price international oils, climbed 30 cents to $49.58 a barrel in London.
BONDS AND CURRENCIES: U.S. government bond prices fell sharply. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.82 percent from 1.71 percent late Tuesday, a large move. The dollar rose to 109.76 yen from 109.07 yen. The euro slipped to $1.1277 from $1.1317.