NEW YORK, Oct 31 — US stocks advanced yesterday, with the S&P 500 closing at a record for the second time in three sessions, after a policy statement by the US Federal Reserve that cut interest rates by a quarter of a percentage point.
The Fed lowered its policy rate to a target range between 1.50 per cent and 1.75 per cent, but dropped a previous reference in its statement to “act as appropriate” to sustain the economic expansion, which could signal the Fed may hold off on future rate cuts.
Chair Powell said “we believe that monetary policy is in a good place,” in a press conference following the announcement, indicating the central bank was likely to keep rates on hold absent a major change in the economic outlook, helping stocks move higher in the latter stages of trading.
“The only concern in this market was that they'd make some statement saying this is it,” said Rick Meckler, partner at Cherry Lane Investments, New Vernon, New Jersey. “They said they remain open to what the data shows them. Flexibility is what the market wants to see.”
Hopes of a rate cut and recent optimism around the trade talks had helped lift the benchmark S&P 500 to record intraday highs for three straight sessions.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 115.54 points, or 0.43 per cent, to 27,186.96, the S&P 500 gained 9.92 points, or 0.33 per cent, to 3,046.81 and the Nasdaq Composite added 27.12 points, or 0.33 per cent, to 8,303.98.
The interest-rate sensitive banking sub-sector pared losses after the statement, but was still down 0.69 per cent. Utilities, up 0.86 per cent, was the best performing while the energy sector lagged, down 2.12 per cent.
Investors also dealt with the latest round of corporate earnings. Shares of General Electric Co jumped 11.47 per cent after the industrial conglomerate beat quarterly profit estimates and raised its cash forecast for the year.
Yum Brands Inc shed 6.22 per cent and was among the top decliners on the benchmark index as the KFC owner missed quarterly profit expectations.
US economic growth slowed less than expected in the third quarter, a Commerce Department report showed, as declining business investment was offset by resilient consumer spending and a rebound in exports, further allaying financial market fears of a recession.
Other data showed a modest acceleration in private sector job growth, boosted by gains in the service sector, according to the ADP National Employment Report. The data comes ahead of tomorrow's payrolls report.
About 74.1 per cent of the 278 S&P 500 companies that have reported so far have beaten profit estimates, according to Refinitiv data.
However, profit growth forecasts for the next four quarters have been revised lower, even as expectations for the decline in third quarter earnings has shrunk to 1.6 per cent, compared with a 2.2 per cent fall at the start of the month.
Buoying the Dow was a 2.88 per cent rise in shares of Johnson & Johnson. The company said 15 new tests found no asbestos in a bottle of baby powder that the US Food and Drug Administration says tested positive for trace amounts of asbestos. The FDA said it stands by its finding.
Mattel Inc surged nearly 13.78 per cent after the US toymaker reported a surprise jump in quarterly revenue.
Advancing issues outnumbered declining ones on the NYSE by a 1.15-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 1.01-to-1 ratio favoured decliners.
The S&P 500 posted 21 new 52-week highs and four new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 67 new highs and 72 new lows. — Reuters