Wall Street higher as rate hike concerns ease

A Wall Street sign is seen in front of the New York Stock Exchange.
A Wall Street sign is seen in front of the New York Stock Exchange.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Wall Street was higher on Wednesday as investors took comfort from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen's comments that the central bank should tread cautiously on raising rates this year.

Apple's 2 per cent rise propped up all three major indexes and helped the S&P 500 extend gains for the year.

Ms Yellen, who made her first remarks since the Fed held steady on rates earlier this month, said inflation in the United States had not yet reached sustainable levels amid uncertainty about China's economy and low oil prices.

Ms Yellen's stance contrasts with recent comments from other policymakers who have voiced support for more than one increase this year.

Global markets cheered Ms Yellen's remarks, which suggested that a rate hike was not immediately on the horizon. The dollar fell more than a percent, while bond prices rallied. "Yellen's comments allowed investors to breathe a sigh of relief that the Fed will not be raising rates in April," said Sam Stovall, U.S. equity strategist at S&P Global Market Intelligence in New York.

Mr Stovall said the Fed would focus on data to see whether a hike in June would be possible.

Traders see a 26 per cent chance that the Fed will make a move on rates at its meeting in June, according to the CME Group's FedWatch program.

Crude oil rose more than 2 per cent as the dollar weakened and a report showed a less-than-expected build in U.S. crude stockpiles last week.

Data on Wednesday showed the U.S. private sector added more jobs than expected in March. The report, by payrolls processor ADP, serves as a precursor to the more comprehensive non-farm payrolls data on Friday.

At 9:36 a.m. ET (9:36 p.m Singapore time), the Dow Jones industrial average was up 110.61 points, or 0.63 per cent, at 17,743.72, the S&P 500 was up 10.68 points, or 0.52 per cent, at 2,065.69 and the Nasdaq Composite was up 31.88 points, or 0.66 per cent, at 4,878.51.

Nine of the 10 major S&P sectors were higher, led by a 0.83 percent rise in the energy sector. Chevron was up 1 percent.