News Column

Wall Street retreats after Fed minutes

February 20, 2014

U.S. stocks edged lower Wednesday after minutes of the Federal Reserve's last meeting showed policymakers divided on when to start increasing interest rates, and indicated stimulus reduction will most likely continue. Minutes revealed little consensus over short-term rates and some doubts about whether the central bank should continue to reduce the pace of asset purchases. Many policy makers also said that "in the absence of an appreciable change in the economic outlook, there  should be a clear presumption in favor on continuing to reduce the pace" of the bond purchases of $10 billion at each meeting. However, the minutes showed Fed policy makers divided on how to clarify their guidance. Some participants  favored quantitative guidance along the lines of the existing thresholds , while others preferred a qualitative approach that would provide additional information regarding the factors that would guide the Committee's policy decision," the minutes said. The Fed decided at its January meeting to press on with a second cut of $10 billion to its bond buying. Construction on new U.S. homes tumbled 16% in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 880,000, with drops for single-family homes and apartments, according to Commerce Department. Economists said particularly poor weather hit construction last month. Building permits, a sign of future demand, fell to the lowest rate since August. -The S&P 500 Index dropped 0.65% to 1828.75 -The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.56% to 16040.56 -The NASDAQ Composite dropped 0.82% to 4237.95 Corporate earnings n corporate news, Panera Bread rose after the casual-restaurant chain reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings, but provided a first-quarter outlook that was below current projections. Zale soared after the jewelry retailer agreed to be acquired by larger rival Signet Jewelers for about $690 million in cash. Signet`s stock climbed. Carlyle Group rose after the private-equity firm`s fourth-quarter earnings and revenue were well above analyst forecasts, and the company said it would pay a dividend of $1.40 a share for the quarter, up from 85 cents a year earlier.

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Source: Financial Markets

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