NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are drifting Wednesday, as Wall Street waits to hear what the Federal Reserve will do with interest rates later in the afternoon.
The S&P 500 was 0.3% lower in midday trading, coming off its best closing level in more than 15 months. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 5 points, or less than 0.1%, at 35,443, as of 11 a.m. Eastern time, and the Nasdaq composite was 0.7% lower.
Microsoft weighed on the market after falling 4.9%. That was despite reporting stronger profit and revenue for the spring than analysts expected. Analysts said the company made comments that were perhaps intended to rein in huge expectations for upcoming growth from artificial intelligence. Investors also may have been hoping to hear more about when slowing growth at its Azure cloud computing business will trough.
Another Big Tech behemoth, Alphabet, helped to limit the market’s losses. Alphabet rose 6% after beating analysts’ expectations for profit and revenue by a wider margin than Microsoft.
What Big Tech titans do matters more for Wall Street than other stocks because they have become so influential due to their massive size. Seven stocks alone accounted for most of the S&P 500’s returns through the first half of this year, largely on expectations that their explosive growth will continue. They’ll need to deliver big profits to justify those gains.
Another member of the “Magnificent Seven” that’s overshadowed the rest of the market will report its results after trading closes for the day, Meta Platforms. The stock has more than doubled so far this year, while Alphabet and Microsoft are both up at least 39%.
Boeing, meanwhile, was helping to prop up the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which has less of an emphasis on Big Tech than the S&P 500. The aircraft maker reported a smaller loss for the spring than analysts expected, and revenue topped expectations. Boeing’s stock rose 4.7%.
Wall Street could be in for more shakes toward the end of the day’s trading, when the Federal Reserve announces its latest decision on interest rates.
The wide expectation is that the Fed will announce another increase in hopes of wrestling down high inflation. That would take the federal funds rate to a range of 5.25% to 5.50%, the highest level in more than two decades and up from virtually zero early last year.
But the hope among traders is that will be the last increase of this cycle because inflation has been on a downward trend since last summer. Such hopes have been another big reason for Wall Street’s big rally this year. That’s because rate increases work to lower inflation by grinding down on the entire economy, raising the risk of a recession and hurting prices for investments.
The economy has so far defied many predictions for a recession, largely because of a remarkably solid job market that has allowed U.S. households to keep spending. That has hopes rising that the Federal Reserve can pull off a “soft landing” for the economy where high inflation falls back to its target without a painful recession.
Some critics, though, say traders may have rushed into such hopes too quickly and too strongly. Inflation is still high, even if it’s come down, and the Fed may need to keep rates high for a while to drive it down to its 2% target. A recession is still a risk, they say.
In the bond market, Treasury yields were mixed ahead of the Fed’s announcement.
The yield on the 10-year Treasury slipped to 3.87% from 3.89% late Tuesday. It helps set rates for mortgages and other important loans.
The two-year Treasury yield, which moves more on expectations for Fed action, rose to 4.89% from 4.88%.
In markets abroad, stocks fell more sharply in Europe. France’s CAC 40 sank 1.6%, and Germany’s DAX lost 0.7%.
In Asia, South Korea’s Kospi fell 1.7% and Japan’s Nikkei 225 was nearly flat. Stocks in China were down modestly as traders wait to see how the country’s ruling Communist Party will carry out its promise to shore up sluggish economic growth. The ruling party has pledged to support entrepreneurs and the struggling real estate industry but has given no details.
Cover Photo: A man rides on a bicycle past the New York Stock Exchange, Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)