Trading is lackluster ahead of Fed decision
NEW YORK » Stocks finished a lackluster session narrowly mixed yesterday as investors made few moves ahead of the Federal Reserve's decision on interest rates.
Record earnings from Exxon Mobil Corp. and evidence of strong consumer spending gave the market little momentum.
Investors welcomed the U.S. Commerce Department's latest report on consumer spending, which rose 0.9 percent in December. Though personal incomes rose just 0.4 percent, the strong consumer spending bespoke of continued confidence in the economy despite high energy prices.
Yet the report also showed prices remaining in check -- good news for investors concerned about inflation. Despite that, many investors held off on making sharp moves before today's Fed meeting. The Fed is expected to raise interest rates by a quarter percentage point to 4.5 percent, but Wall Street expects a signal that the central bank will stop hiking rates after that.
"It's really a question of the economy and what the Fed's going to do, and that's not something you're going to see a big move on in a single day," said Bill Groenveld, head trader for vFinance Investments. "Nothing's giving us those big knee-jerk reactions, so you're seeing things kind of wishy-washy today."
The Dow Jones industrial average fell 7.29, or 0.07 percent, to 10,899.92.
Broader stock indicators were modestly higher. The Standard & Poor's 500 index added 1.48, or 0.12 percent, to 1,285.20, and the Nasdaq composite index gained 2.55, or 0.11 percent, to 2,306.78.
Declining issues barely outnumbered advancers on the New York Stock Exchange, where preliminary consolidated volume came to 2.34 billion shares, compared with 2.71 billion traded on Friday.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 1.35, or 0.18 percent, to 730.87.
Bonds moved lower, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note rising to 4.53 percent from 4.51 percent late Friday. The dollar was mixed against other major currencies, while gold prices also moved higher.
Oil prices rose modestly even after a top Saudi Arabian official said his country has no intention of cutting production, and that prices were too high. OPEC meets in Vienna today. A barrel of light crude settled at $68.35, up 59 cents, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
High oil prices remain good news for Exxon Mobil, which set a record for quarterly profits by any U.S. company with $10.71 billion.
The oil company benefitted from high oil prices and strong demand, and beat Wall Street's forecasts by 19 cents per share. Exxon Mobil climbed $1.82 to $63.11.