joy Wiltermuth and Mark DeCambre
Fed tapering may be in play for the fall
The S&P 500 index and Nasdaq Composite posted fresh closing record highs Wednesday after the Federal Reserve released minutes from its June policy meeting, which some market participants viewed as dovish, particularly when it comes to the progress still needed on the economic recovery.
But several Fed officials also pointed to a tightening of monetary policy potentially happening sooner than expected as the economy recovers from the pandemic, even if no move to taper asset purchases seems imminent.
What did major indexes do?
On Tuesday, the Dow fell 208.98 points, or 0.6%, to close at 34,577.37. The S&P 500 ended the day down 0.2%, snapping a string of seven consecutive record closes -- the longest such run since an eight-day streak ended in 1997. The Nasdaq Composite edged up 0.2% for its 21st record finish of 2021.
What drove the market?
Investors were focused on how soon extremely supportive monetary policies might begin to be scaled back by the Federal Reserve after the release of its mid-June rate-setting meeting minutes.
Several Fed officials said conditions may be ripe to taper the central bank's large-scale asset purchases sooner than expected, starting first with fewer monthly mortgage bond purchases.
See: Fed dived into taper debate at June meeting, but nothing seems imminent, minutes show ()
At the Fed's earlier June 15-16th meeting, policy makers moved up their forecasts for a policy interest rate increase () and began talking about when it would be appropriate to discuss the unwinding of its asset purchases of $120 billion a month, which could be a drag on Treasury rates.
Importantly, the June minutes showed the Fed's "substantial further progress" target for the economic recovery generally had yet to be met.
"We certainly heard the message that the Fed hasn't seen its goals realized around employment," Kristina Hooper, Invesco's chief global market strategist, told MarketWatch. "I think that is important."
But Hooper also said the minutes show "logistics around tapering" being discussed at the Fed. "So that really does, I think, tee up the fall for a tapering story."
Investors have heard from virtually every Fed official since the meeting, leaving the market with a good sense of where the central bank stands, some analysts have said. The Fed has signaled it wants to see a series of good monthly employment reports before scaling back its large-scale purchases of Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities or raising interest rates, which currently stand at a range between 0% and 0.25%.
Read: June jobs report bolsters case for Fed to start slowing down bond-buys this year ()
A Labor Department report Wednesday showed job openings in the U.S. rose to a record 9.21 million in May, reflecting a rising demand for labor as the economy fully reopens and businesses scramble to keep up with soaring sales for their goods and service.
"Hiring is still a problem though as they fell by 85,000 in May and after a sharp jump in the two prior months of 609,000, the number of quitters fell by 388,000," wrote Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group, in a daily note.
Bottom line, we'll of course see how these numbers mesh in coming months as kids go back to school, enhanced unemployment benefits expire and the vaccine gets further rolled out, but of course at a sharply slowing pace, he said.
The report on job availability () has set a record for three straight months and may be starting to shake the confidence of investors anticipating a robust economic bounceback from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Dallas Federal Reserve said the U.S. economy may be as little as one month away from full employment () in a new research report, arguing that the labor-market should be measured by a "neutral" standard, not pre-pandemic levels.
Even so, concerns about the recovery have been reflected, at least partly, in a recent slump in longer-dated bond yields.
The decline in Treasury yields, with the 10-year Treasury note falling to 1.321% on Wednesday, its lowest since Feb. 18, continuing a decline that had emboldened buyers in yield-sensitive segments of the stock market, like companies in the technology-heavy Nasdaq Composite and growth stocks. However, markets may be growing concerned that buying government bonds implies that some investors harbor doubts about long-term growth in the U.S., and the stock market's ability to deliver further record rallies.
Bank shares were mixed, with Goldman Sachs (GS) stock ending 0.6% lower and those of JPMorgan Chase (JPM) advancing 0.1%, as investors consider the possibility of lower bond yields hurting the financial sector's profitability.
Separately, crude-oil futures pivoted to a sharp decline from a modest gain in the wake of a disagreement within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and their allies -- a group known as OPEC+ -- on raising output. WTI crude touched a six-year high briefly on Tuesday before retreating.
See: What the OPEC standoff means for oil prices and financial markets ()
Investors also have grown wary about COVID variants, including as the world watches the Delta variant spread.
Chinese technology companies listed on U.S. markets also have emerged as a concern, as Beijing tightens its control over the country's largest tech companies. Didi Global Inc. fell 4.6% Wednesday, after tumbling 19.6% on Tuesday in the wake of last week's New York IPO.
Which companies were in focus?
How did other assets trade?
William Watts contributed reporting
-joy Wiltermuth; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
July 07, 2021 16:26 ET (20:26 GMT)
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