The Federal Reserve still has faith in the integrity of the U.S. economic recovery even as recent data showed signs of weakness.
The central bank's belief in the fundamentals lifted some of the weight on Wall Street Wednesday. Stocks closed mostly lower, though well off their lows.
The S&P 500 was down 0.13%, and the Nasdaq fell 0.37%. The Dow Jones Industrial Average turned higher late afternoon, finishing up 0.03%.
In a statement following the Fed's May meeting, members of the Federal Open Market Committee noted that economic had slowed, though fundamentals remained solid. The committee viewed slowing growth in the first quarter as transitory.
"The Committee views the slowing in growth during the first quarter as likely to be transitory and continues to expect that, with gradual adjustments in the stance of monetary policy, economic activity will expand at a moderate pace," the Fed said in a statement.
Also on Wednesday, the Fed opted to leave its federal funds rate at 0.75% to 1% at its May meeting, according to a statement following the meeting's conclusion. The group maintained its forecast for gradual hikes.
No changes were made to its balance sheet policy. The committee said it would maintain its existing policy of reinvesting principal payments and expects that to continue until the rates normalization process is "well underway."
The odds of a rate hike to 1% to 1.25% at this meeting sat at a negligible 4.8% prior to the announcement, according to CME Group fed funds futures. A June rate hike looks more likely with a 67% chance. The meeting on Wednesday concluded with no press conference, often taken by investors as a sign of no change in monetary policy.
"Despite weak GDP numbers and soft March payrolls, the Fed's target of three hikes in 2017 is still in their cross hairs," Mike Loewengart, VP of investment strategy at E*TRADE, wrote in a note. "All eyes continue to be focused on the June meeting, and if the economy shows greater signs of life, no doubt the Fed hawks will be buzzing for an increase."
Apple (AAPL - Get Report) beat estimates on its bottom-line but fell short on the top. The world's largest publicly traded company earned $2.10 a share on $52.9 billion in revenue. Analysts predicted earnings of $2.02 a share on sales of $53.02 billion. iPhone shipments of 50.8 million also fell short of estimates of 52.27 million. Services revenue rose 18% to $7.04 billion, which was slightly below consensus of $7.06 billion.
Third-quarter revenue guidance came in slightly weaker than expected. Apple said it expects revenue for the quarter ending in June of $43.5 billion to $45.5 billion, which falls short of the $45.63 billion consensus.
Quarterly sales miss aside, Brian Sozzi calls the stock "cheap by almost all measures" over on our premium site Real Money. Find out why with a free trial subscription to Real Money.
The pace of new hires in the private sector slowed in April, according to the ADP National Employment Report. Private-sector employers added 177,000 jobs in April, slowing from a revised job creation rate of 255,000 in March. Economists had expected 180,000 jobs to have been added to private payrolls in April.
The ADP employment report is released the Wednesday before the official jobs report from the Labor Department on the first Friday of each month. On Friday, analysts anticipate data to show 193,000 jobs to have been added to the U.S. economy in April and for the unemployment rate to hold at 4.6%. Average hourly earnings are expected to grow 0.3%. The U.S. added 235,000 and 98,000 jobs over February and March, respectively, the first full two months under Donald Trump's presidency.
Activity in the services sector improved at a faster-than-expected pace in April. The ISM Non-Manufacturing Index rose to a reading of 57.5 in April from 55.2 in March. Analysts anticipated a reading of 55.8. Economic activity in the non-manufacturing sector has risen for the past 88 months in a row.
Etsy (ETSY - Get Report) slumped 7.9% after falling short of sales estimates and announcing that its CEO Chad Dickerson would step down. The online crafts site said it would refrain from providing guidance due to the switch-up in leadership. Josh Silverman will act as the new CEO as of Wednesday.
Yum! Brands (YUM - Get Report) increased 2.8% after quarterly adjusted earnings topped consensus and the company saw strong same-store sales growth across most of its brands. The Taco Bell owner reported adjusted earnings of 65 cents a share, exceeding estimates by 6 cents. Revenue of $1.42 billion came in higher than consensus of $1.38 billion. Same-store sales at KFC rose 2%, while Taco Bell same-store sales increased 8%.
Mondelez (MDLZ - Get Report) rose 3% as earnings and revenue topped targets. The owner of Oreo earned an adjusted 53 cents a share, up 2 cents from the same quarter a year earlier. Consensus was for 50 cents a share in adjusted earnings. Sales of $6.41 billion exceeded expectations.
Weight Watchers (WTW) rallied 9% after swinging to a quarterly profit. The weight-loss company earned 16 cents a share over its first quarter compared to a loss of 17 cents a share in the year-ago quarter. Revenue improved to $319.1 million from $306.9 million.
New York Times (NYT - Get Report) rose 12% after swinging to a quarterly profit and reporting a double-digit increase in circulation revenue. Earnings improved to 8 cents a share from a loss of 5 cents a share a year earlier, while adjusted earnings of 11 cents a share came in 4 cents higher than estimates. Circulation revenue increased 11% over its first quarter, a pace expected to continue in the second quarter. The news company has seen increased subscriptions in response to the Trump administration's attacks on the media.
Cybersecurity provider FireEye (FEYE - Get Report) also rose 12% Wednesday after the company topped analysts' first-quarter profit expectations. Better-than-expected earnings set of a series of analyst changes. Wunderlich analysts raised their price target to $15 from $12, Stifel Nicolaus updated its to $20 from $17, and Wedbush Securities analysts upped theirs to $13 from $11.
More than two-thirds of S&P 500 companies have reported earnings so far this season. Of those, nearly 75% have exceed earnings estimates, above the historical average of 64%. Nearly 63% of companies have beat revenue estimates, a narrower beat rate compared to the historical average of 59%.
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