Stocks fall ahead of key Federal Reserve update

Stocks fall ahead of key Federal Reserve update

U.S. stocks dipped on Wednesday ahead of the Federal Reserve’s update on monetary policy.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 100 points. The S&P 500 traded 0.3% lower after hitting an all-time high in the previous session. The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite erased earlier gains and edged down 0.2%.

Nine out of 11 S&P 500 sectors traded in the red, led to the downside by communication services and financials.

Economic reopening plays provided the broader market with some support. Major airline stocks American Airlines, United and Delta all traded higher. Royal Caribbean and Carnival both climbed 2% after an upgrade from Wolfe Research.

The Fed will conclude its two-day meeting on Wednesday. The central bank is not expected to make any policy moves, but it could signal that it’s beginning to think about easing its bond-buying policy. The Fed will also release new forecasts on Wednesday, which could indicate a possible first rate hike penciled in for 2023. Previously, Fed officials hadn’t come to a consensus for a rate hike through 2023.

The Fed’s statement and forecasts will come out at 2 p.m. ET followed by a press conference by Chairman Jerome Powell 30 minutes later.

The meeting comes as inflation heats up, with producer prices rising at their fastest annual rate in nearly 11 years during May, a report on Tuesday showed. This has prompted some, including Paul Tudor Jones, to call for the central bank to re-think its easy monetary policy.

“I still think equities are going higher,” BlackRock global bond chief Rick Rieder said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday. “If we don’t hear anything different, then I worry a little bit about risk the system creates — you can create asset bubbles you can create leverage. We’ve seen markets that are a little bit concerning with literally zero spread to them for risk assets.”

The central bank has been buying $120 billion worth of bonds each month as the economy continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

“The drama this week will be whether the Fed sits tight or admits that inflation is rising and that the Fed needs to tighten,” said Brad McMillan, CIO at Commonwealth Financial Network. “Since the Fed has a dual mandate—unemployment and inflation—that suggests it should indeed keep its focus on unemployment, rather than inflation.”

Minutes from the central bank’s last meeting showed that some Fed officials said it could be appropriate to start discussing adjustments to the bond-buying program should the economy continue to recover. Economists predict that while some of these discussions could begin, concrete details will not be revealed until later this year.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who is testifying before the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday, said higher price pressures shouldn’t last over the long run.

“I previously said that I see important transitory influences at work and I don’t anticipate that it will be permanent,” Yellen said. “But we continue to monitor inflation data very carefully, and importantly for the long run inflation outlook we see inflation expectations by most measures … as being well-anchored.”

On Wednesday, China said it will release industrial metals including copper, aluminum and zinc from its national reserves to curb commodity prices. Copper price has fallen more than 10% from its record high, dipping into correction territory on Tuesday.

— CNBC’s Jeff Cox contributed reporting.

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