NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Stocks popped as markets digested the minutes of the Federal Reserve meeting in March, which revealed that the central bank was divided in its thinking as to when it would be appropriate to begin normalizing monetary policy.
The S&P 500 added 0.3%, the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 0.2%, and the Nasdaq gained 0.77%.
"Several participants judged that the economic data and outlook were likely to warrant beginning normalization at the June meeting," the minutes from the Fed's March 17-18 meeting read. "Others anticipated that the effects of energy price declines and the dollar's appreciation would continue to weigh on inflation in the near term, suggesting that conditions likely would not be appropriate to begin raising rates until later in the year."
The minutes made mention that some committee members were even considering the first rate hike in 2016 as a potential likelihood.
New York Fed President William Dudley earlier Wednesday said a rate hike in June is still on the table despite a series of poor data in recent weeks.
"I could imagine circumstances where a June rate hike is still in play. If the next jobs report is strong ... if second-quarter GDP look like it is bouncing quite sharply," said Dudley at a Reuters Newsmaker event.
Deals news was keeping markets active on Wednesday. Mylan (MYL) spiked more than 16%, leading the S&P 500 and Nasdaq, after it made an offer to buy Perrigo (PRGO) for $205 a share. If accepted, the combined company would bring in $15 billion in yearly revenue. The health care sector moved higher on the news with the Health Care SPDR ETF (XLV) up by 0.9%.
Royal Dutch Shell (RDS.A) agreed on Wednesday to buy BG Group (BRGYY), the U.K.'s third-largest natural gas producer, for $70 billion. The energy sector could see further consolidation as the significant fall in oil prices hurts profits.
Crude oil prices slipped as crude inventories increased by 10.9 million barrels in the week ended April 3, according to the Energy Information Administration. The increase was far higher than expectations that called for an increase of 3.4 million barrels. West Texas Intermediate crude fell 5.6% to $50.97 a barrel.
Prices were already under pressure after Saudi Arabia increased production to 10.3 million barrels a day in March, a 12-year high. Saudi oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, said he believes oil prices will rebound in the "near future" and the nation has made no signs of cutting production until then.
Apple (AAPL) fell 0.1% after being downgraded to hold from buy at Societe Generale. The firm said iPhone prices have declined, hurting overall revenue, and that quarterly sales will be undercut by a 5% currency headwind this quarter.
Global Payments (GPN) was 8.2% higher after narrowly beating third-quarter earnings estimates. The company issued revenue guidance up 8% to 10% over fiscal 2015 and earnings growth up 19% to 21%.
Halliburton (HAL) was lower on news it plans to sell its three drilling businesses. The oil company expects to complete the sale of the business around the same time as it closes its acquisition of Baker Hughes (BHI) in the second half of 2015.
Alcoa (AA), reporting after the bell, marks the unofficial kickoff to the first-quarter earnings season.
Investors are nervous a stronger U.S. dollar will pose a big challenge to S&P 500 companies, most of which generate a significant amount of sales from overseas. S&P 500 earnings are expected to slide 3.2% year on year and 11.4% quarter on quarter, according to Wells Fargo analysts. The bulk of profits lost will be in the energy sector due to declining oil prices.
"We reiterate, a poor earnings season should be expected as the strong dollar, weak oil prices and the effects of a sluggish global economy all have a deleterious impact," said Peter Cardillo, Rockwell Global Capital chief market economist. "We think the long-awaited correction may be at hand."