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Nasdaq at Record, Dow Off - Fed Sees No Rate Rise Through '22

The Nasdaq Composite closed at a record and the Dow was off. The Fed left rates unchanged and says they'll remain near zero through 2022.

The Nasdaq reached a record close Wednesday, ending above 10,000 for the first time, after the Federal Reserve left rates unchanged and projected they will remain near zero through 2022.

The central bank also said it would do what it takes to prop up a U.S. economy battered by lockdown measures instituted during the coronavirus pandemic.

“To support the flow of credit to households and businesses, over coming months the Federal Reserve will increase its holdings of Treasury securities and agency residential and commercial mortgage-backed securities at least at the current pace to sustain smooth market functioning, thereby fostering effective transmission of monetary policy to broader financial conditions,” the Federal Open Market Committee said in a statement.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq, which also set an intraday record during the session, closed up 0.67% to 10,020.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished down 282 points, or 1.04%, to 26,989, and the S&P 500 fell 0.53% to 3,190. 

The central bank voted unanimously to keep the federal-funds target rate in a range of 0% to 0.25%, saying the economy faces “considerable risks” in the medium term.

"The Fed has a problem of its own making," said Danielle DiMartino Booth, chief strategist and chief executive of Quill Intelligence, Dallas. 

"Most market participants are convinced that interest rates will be lower for as far as the eye can see. The market is currently pricing in no rate hikes for at least three years, which is less than the seven-year duration of near-zero interest rates that took place after the last crisis in 2008."

DiMartino Booth added that economic projections the Fed released were "notable since they were last released in December but skipped in March when the Fed convened emergency meetings as the pandemic hit the U.S. economy. 

"Analyzing the Fed's economic projections at this time when much of the economy is still opening is riddled with uncertainties. This is an economic recession with no precedent," she said.

The Federal Reserve's announcement will be followed by a news conference from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, who will be tasked with assuring investors the central bank will use any tools necessary to aid an economy severely weakened by the pandemic.

The Fed may have to keep supporting the economy if forecasts from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development are any guide. The Paris-based think tank predicts a 6% contraction in world GDP this year, a figure it said could worsen to a 7.6% contraction if a second wave of coronavirus infections hits in the autumn.

The Consumer Price Index in May fell 0.1%, its third straight monthly decline, as demand for household goods slumped during the coronavirus pandemic.

CPI declined a seasonally adjusted 0.8% in April.

Eli Lilly  (LLY)  could have a drug specifically designed to treat covid-19 authorized for use as early as September if all goes well with either of two antibody therapies it is testing, the drugmaker's chief scientist told Reuters.

Meanwhile, the U.S, government this summer plans decisive Phase III trials of experimental coronavirus vaccines from three major drugmakers: Moderna  (MRNA) , AstraZeneca  (AZN)  with Oxford University, and Johnson & Johnson  (JNJ) , The Wall Street Journal reported.

Stocks had closed mixed on Tuesday with the S&P 500 falling 0.78%, a day after the index turned positive for 2020. The Dow dropped 1.09% to 27,272. The Nasdaq, however, finished up 0.29% and at an all-time high.