After a Stumble, U.S. Stocks Finish Slightly Higher


U.S. stocks overcame a brief stumble to close slightly higher Wednesday, snapping a two-day losing streak.

The dip came after the Federal Reserve released its latest statement on interest rate policy and the economy, in which the central bank signaled that it expects inflation to pick up this year. The Fed, as expected, held off on raising interest rates.

Stocks bounced back in the last hour of trading, with gains by technology companies outweighing losses in health care and other sectors.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index rose 1.38 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,823.81. The Dow Jones industrial average added 72.50 points, or 0.3 percent, to 26,149.39. The Nasdaq composite climbed 9 points, or 0.1 percent, to 7,411.48. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks gave up 7.83 points, or 0.5 percent, to 1,574.98.

All told, the indexes ended January with solid gains.

Boeing climbed 4.9 percent after the aerospace giant’s latest results topped Wall Street’s expectations. The stock, which has been the biggest gainer in the Dow over the past year, added $16.66 to $354.37.

Electronic Arts led the rally in technology companies, jumping 7 percent after the company forecast quarterly earnings and sales that were well ahead of what analysts expected. The stock was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500, rising $8.26 to $126.96.

Some 80 percent of the companies that have reported earnings in recent weeks have beat expectations. Typically, it’s around two-thirds. Management teams are also touting stronger sales growth than in previous quarters.

Health care stocks posted the biggest decline for the second day in a row.

Eli Lilly lost $4.64, or 5.4 percent, to $81.45, while Gilead Sciences gave up $3.49, or 4 percent, to $83.80.

Some companies’ quarterly report cards failed to impress traders.

Juniper Networks slumped 7.7 percent after the provider of network equipment forecast quarterly results that were well below what Wall Street analysts expected. The stock fell more than any other company in the S&P 500, shedding $2.17 to $26.15.

Textron shares also fell after the industrial conglomerate’s results fell of forecasts. The stock slid $1.51, or 2.5 percent, to $58.67.

Bond prices didn’t move much. The yield on the 10-year Treasury remained at 2.72 percent after briefly moving higher.

The prospect for stronger economic growth, both in the U.S. and abroad, has helped drive bond yields higher in recent months. This week yields have hovered at the highest level since April 2014.

The dollar rose to 109.11 yen from 108.78 yen on Tuesday. The euro edged up to $1.2410 from $1.2404.

Gold rose $3.60 to $1,339 an ounce. Silver added 18 cents to $17.24 an ounce. Copper gained 1 cent to $3.20 a pound.

Oil prices reversed an early slide. Benchmark U.S. crude rose 23 cents to settle at $64.73 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 3 cents to $69.05 a barrel in London.

In other futures trading, wholesale gasoline added 1 cent to $1.91 a gallon. Heating oil was little changed at $2.07 a gallon. Natural gas fell 20 cents, or 6.3 percent, to $3 per 1,000 cubic feet.