A day after the
Federal Reserve lowered interest rates by a half-percentage point -- as opposed to a more aggressive reduction of 75 basis points -- trading was choppy.
Dow Jones Industrial Average, down close to 200 points earlier this morning, was lately off its lows for the session and just down by about 12 points. The
Nasdaq Composite Index which dropped at the open, was recently up modestly. The broader
S&P 500 market index was gaining, too. Both the Nasdaq and S&P 500 are stuck in bear market territory, meaning they're more than 20% off their all-time highs.
Looking at the sectors driving today's action, some interest-rate sensitive groups were down. Banks were lately up, but cyclical stocks were falling. Elsewhere, tech sectors were holding up. Semiconductor, Internet, and PC makers were lately higher.
Federal Reserve lowered the
federal fund rates -- the interest rate at which banks lend to each other overnight -- to 5%. It's the third time since the beginning of the year that the Fed has lowered rates in order to spur borrowing and demand in the economy. But for stock market investors, it wasn't enough.
In its language, the Fed remained hawkish, leaving open the possibility of an intermeeting cut. The
federal funds futures contract -- a good proxy of the expected direction of interest rates -- is now pricing in a 100% chance that the Fed will cut before May 1. But some are think the Fed is behind the curve and that its statement just confused matters.
As for this morning's economic releases, investors weren't sure how to interpret February's
Consumer Price Index
, which was released at 8:30 a.m. EDT. The headline and core numbers both came in a little higher than expected at 0.3% -- vs.
consensus forecasts of 0.2%. Still, the headline number was only half of January's surprising 0.6% jump, which had sparked fears of stagflation.
Today's numbers could cause people to worry about inflation, which could deter the Fed from more aggressive monetary policy. The CPI measures the change in cost of a representative basket of goods and services, such as food, energy, housing, clothing, transportation, medical care, entertainment and education.
The well of corporate news, of course, continues to deliver. And investors are listening carefully to what companies are saying about visibility. Electronics manufacturer
, up 13.1% to $20.50, issued some mixed news. The company posted second-quarter earnings that beat Wall Street estimates by a penny, but it also announced an undisclosed number of job cuts and lowered its outlook for the next two quarters.
was higher by 9.4% to $33.38, even though the company said it would have to revise its financial statements for the third quarter of 2000. And
Procter & Gamble
, down 1.6% to $64.83, may be cutting up to 20% of its workforce.
Brokerage stocks were active today.
Morgan Stanley Dean Witter
was up 2.5% to $57.90 even after announcing today that its first-quarter profit dropped 30% from the year-ago level, as a slump in stock market activity weighed on trading commissions and underwriting income.
was 1.99% higher to $67.21 after posting first-quarter results today that slightly exceeded Wall Street estimates, even as profits dropped nearly 28% from the year-ago period.