Wall Street opens flat as investors await Fed decision

A trader works on the floor at the closing bell of the Dow Industrial Average at the New York Stock Exchange on Aug 23, 2017.
A trader works on the floor at the closing bell of the Dow Industrial Average at the New York Stock Exchange on Aug 23, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Wall Street opened little changed on Wednesday (Sept 20) as investors waited for the conclusion of the two-day Federal Reserve meeting for indications of a third interest rate hike this year.

The policy statement and projections are due to be released at 2 p.m. ET (2 a.m. Thursday morning Singapore time). Fed Chair Janet Yellen will hold a press conference half an hour later, which will be closely watched for views on inflation.

The central bank is likely to keep interest rate unchanged and say that it will start unwinding its holdings of about US$4.2 trillion (S$5.6 trillion) in bonds and mortgage-backed securities. "Fed will likely be a non-event, but if they are slightly more dovish in their language, I think you could see a reversal in the banks, but I don't see a lot of activity," said Aaron Clark, portfolio manager at GW&K Investment Management. "The Fed is being extremely transparent, so they don't want to surprise the market with the normalization process."

The plan will limit the amount of maturing bonds used each month to purchase new ones. The initial cut will be US$10 billion per month, probably beginning in October. Inflation has remained stubbornly below the Fed's 2-per cent target rate, but a recent data showed uptick in domestic consumer prices, which raised the chances of a December rate hike by more than 50 per cent. Traders were betting on a 56.4 per cent chance of a December hike, compared with 46.8 per cent a week ago, according to the CME Group's FedWatch tool.

At 9:39 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.57 points, or 0 per cent, at 22,371.37, the S&P was up 1 points, or 0.04 per cent, at 2,507.65 and the Nasdaq Composite was down 2.18 points, or 0.03 per cent, at 6,459.14.

Though all the three indexes moved in narrow ranges, the S&P edged up to another record level. Eight of the 11 major S&P sectors were higher, led by 0.50 per cent gain in the energy index. Oil prices were set for their largest third-quarter gain in 13 years after the Iraqi oil minister said OPEC and its partners were considering extending or deepening output cuts.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners on the NYSE by 1,539 to 907. On the Nasdaq, 1,137 issues fell and 1,089 advanced.