Updated from 4:14 p.m. EDT
After an uneven session marked by a deluge of earnings, a spike in oil prices and no surprises on the rate front, Wall Street ended slightly higher Wednesday.
Dow Jones Industrial Average
rose only 6.80 points, or 0.06%, to 12,134.68, yet that was enough for another record closing high. The index had been lower by as many as 43 points earlier, pressured by a decline in
added 4.84 points, or 0.35%, to 1382.22, and the tech-heavy
gained 11.75 points, or 0.5%, to 2356.59. Big gainers included
Volume improved from Tuesday's levels. About 2.96 billion shares changed hands on the
New York Stock Exchange
. Advancers beat decliners by a 2-to-1 margin. Volume on the Nasdaq was roughly 2.15 billion shares, with winners outpacing losers 9 to 7.
Federal Open Market Committee
decided to keep its federal funds target unchanged at 5.25% for the third straight meeting, an outcome that had been widely anticipated.
"The Fed didn't do anything out of the ordinary and the statement was balanced," said Art Hogan, chief market analyst with Jefferies. "Everything stays in play. We got what we expected, and the market likes that."
The FOMC said in its policy statement that recent indicators showed "economic growth has slowed over the course of the year, partly reflecting a cooling of the housing market." Looking forward, the Fed said "the economy seems likely to expand at a moderate pace."
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However, "inflation pressures seem likely to moderate over time, reflecting reduced impetus from energy prices, contained inflation expectations, and the cumulative effects of monetary policy actions and other factors restraining aggregate demand," the statement said.
The FOMC reiterated its views on the possibility of further hikes, and for the third straight time, Richmond Fed President Jeffrey Lacker registered a dissenting vote, saying he preferred a rate increase of 25 basis points.
Following the announcement, the 10-year Treasury bond was up 13/32 in price to yield 4.76%. The dollar fell against the yen and euro.
In other economic news, the National Association of Realtors said existing-home sales fell a greater-than-expected 1.9% to 6.18 million annualized units in September, giving the Fed further evidence regarding the slowdown in the housing market. Economists expected that sales would only fall to 6.25 million annualized units from 6.30 million in the previous month.
"High and rising inventory is killing prices," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist with High Frequency Economics. "In September, the month's supply was unchanged, but this is not good news. Supply usually falls in September, so, seasonally adjusted, the inventory picture is getting worse."
Oil prices jumped above $61 a barrel after the Energy Department posted its weekly inventory report. Crude stocks unexpectedly fell by 3.3 million barrels last week. Meanwhile, gasoline inventories dropped by 2.8 million barrels and distillates fell by 1.4 million barrels.
The December crude contract surged $2.05 to close at $61.40 a barrel. Gold futures reversed early weakness and were higher by $3.20 to $590.80 an ounce, and silver was up 4 cents to close at $11.89 an ounce.
As for earnings, GM posted a third-quarter loss of $115 million, or 20 cents a share, compared with a loss of $1.7 billion, or $2.94 a share, in the same quarter a year ago. Revenue rose to $48.8 billion from $47.2 billion a year ago.
Excluding items related to the company's restructuring, GM said it had adjusted earnings of 93 cents a share, well ahead of the consensus profit estimate of 49 cents. At the same time, the Dow component significantly narrowed the range of its potential liability related to
bankruptcy filing. Still, shares of GM finished lower by $1.48, or 4.1%, to $34.71.
ended higher by 2.3%, and
rose 4.5% after its quarterly report.
reported third-quarter earnings of $694 million, or 89 cents a share, down 31% from the year-ago period. Excluding charges, the airplane maker earned $1.11 in the quarter. Revenue rose 19% to $14.74 billion. Shares of Boeing dropped $2.73, or 3.3%, to close at $80.86.
lifted its profit forecast for 2006, but its earnings for the third-quarter were a bit short of Wall Street's expectations. For the full year, Altria is projecting earnings from continuing operations of $5.48 to $5.53 a share, up from a previous range of $5.40 to $5.50. On average, analysts are looking for $5.31. Altria gained $2.28, or 2.9%, to $82.10.
After the previous session's close, Amazon.com was there to support the bull case, beating earnings estimates and offering an optimistic forecast. Shares of the online bookseller surged 12%, up $4.05 to close at $37.68.
Dozens of other companies were on the schedule to post their quarterly results, and among them,
swung to a loss, while
was mainly in line.
Overseas markets were mostly higher, with London's FTSE 100 adding 0.5% to 6214 and Germany's Xetra DAX rising 0.3% to 6265. In Asia, Japan's Nikkei fell 0.5% overnight to 16,699, and Hong Kong's Hang Seng edged higher by 0.1% to 18,157.
Thursday will bring another busy day of earnings. Reports are expected from
, among others.