There were no big surprises from the Federal Reserve on Wednesday, Nov. 1, so markets held at the same levels as before the announcement -- narrowly mixed as materials surged and a tech rally came to an end.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.25% on Wednesday, coming within points of a new record. The S&P 500 was also close to records after climbing 0.16%. The Nasdaq held lower, though, as a tech rally that fueled recent all-time highs failed to find new momentum. The Nasdaq slid 0.17%.
The federal funds rate remained unchanged at 1% to 1.25%, a widely expected decision from the Fed following their two-day meeting. The chances of an interest rate hike at this November meeting sat at just 2% before the Wednesday announcement, according to CME Group fed funds futures. Those chances of a hike spike to 96% at the December meeting.
Members of the Federal Open Market Committee said that the U.S. economy warrants gradual increases and anticipates rates to continue to rise at future meetings. The central bank also called the U.S. economy "solid" despite hurricane disruptions -- the decision-making arm does not expect the impact of hurricanes to change the course of growth. The Fed also said the labor market continues to strengthen, but did note that inflation remains "soft" and below its 2% target.
Bigger Fed news is expected on Thursday, Nov. 2, when President Donald Trump reveals his pick for new central bank chair. According to data from political predictions market website PredictIt, Jerome Powell is leading the pack in the race to become the next chair of the U.S. central bank, taking over from current chair Janet Yellen. In comments at an unrelated press event Wednesday, Trump called Yellen "excellent," though did not say whether he backed her as his nominee.
A solid quarter from United States Steel Corp. (X) sent the basic materials sector racing. The steelmaker earned 92 cents a share, 22 cents above estimates, while revenue surged 21% to $3.25 billion, beating targets by $190 million. U.S. Steel said it had performed "modestly better" than expected over its third quarter. For fiscal 2017, the company anticipates adjusted net income of $1.70 a share, higher than consensus of $1.63.
Other steel companies were in rally mode. AK Steel Holding Corp. (AKS) , Commercial Metals Co. (CMC) , ArcelorMittal (MT) and Steel Dynamics Inc. (STLD) were all higher. Other materials names on the rise included BHP Billiton PLC (BHP) , Rio Tinto PLC (RIO) , Vale SA (VALE) and LyondellBasell Industries NV (LYB) . The Materials Select Sector SPDR (XLB) increased 0.55%.
In other earnings news, Molson Coors Brewing Co. (TAP) reported quarterly earnings in line with estimates, though revenue that was slightly weaker than anticipated. The Coors Light producer earned $1.29 a share, down from $1.47 a share a year earlier, though adjusted earnings of $1.34 a share matched expectations. Revenue of $2.88 billion fell short of $2.97 billion consensus. CEO Mark Hunter said the company was on track to "deliver our 2017 business and financial plans and exceed our original cost savings targets and cash flow goals" even as business in North America remains challenging.
Allergan PLC (AGN) posted a better-than-expected third quarter and increased full-year guidance. Adjusted earnings of $4.15 a share came in above consensus of $4.04. However, revenue of $4.034 billion fell just shy of estimates of $4.037 billion. Allergan revised its full-year adjusted profit guidance to $16.15 to $16.45 a share, up from $16.05 a share on the low-end of previous forecasts.
Around 65% of S&P 500 companies have reported earnings so far this reporting season. Of those, 73% have exceeded profit estimates, and 67% have beat revenue forecasts. Economists anticipate blended earnings growth of 7%, or 4.7% excluding energy, according to Thomson Reuters.
The House Ways and Means Committee is set to release the initial tax reform bill from the House Republicans bill on Thursday, Nov. 2, pushing it back from an expected Wednesday release. The tax writers couldn't finalize details in time for their Wednesday deadline so they moved the public rollout of the plan to Thursday. Trump has set a deadline of around Christmas for passage of the legislation.
Investors so far have seen little detail on highly anticipated reform, though the promise of what's to come has supported market gains in recent months. The Trump White House has promised tax cuts for individuals and businesses, but details on how they will be paid for without blowing up the deficit have not been forthcoming.
"What we'll get from the Ways and Means Committee is expected to run 700+ pages," LPL Financial's John Lynch and Ryan Detrick wrote in a note. "Should the House pass a version by the end of November, we would consider this a big win in the bill's progress, and even a December vote keeps passage of the final bill in the first quarter of 2018 well in play."
U.S. private payrolls added far more jobs in October than anticipated, according to the latest ADP employment report. ADP reported 235,000 jobs having been added to payrolls last month, higher than a targeted 200,000. The report gives a snapshot of the state of the labor market ahead of the official U.S. jobs report for October to be released on Friday, Nov. 3. The U.S. jobs report should provide color on how the labor market has recovered from a string of devastating hurricanes in late August and early September.
After a surprisingly weak September report, the onus is on October to show that this isn't the beginning of a trend. The U.S. nonfarm payrolls report for September showed the first contraction in seven years, a result of Hurricane Harvey and Irma that hit Texas and Florida, respectively.
Investors expect a solid rebound on nonfarm payrolls in October. Consensus is for 310,000 jobs to have been added to the U.S. economy and for the unemployment rate to hold at 4.2%, according to FactSet. Year-over-year hourly earnings are expected to have increased 2.7%.
Manufacturing activity in October weakened at a faster pace than analysts expected. The ISM manufacturing index dipped to 58.7 last month from 60.8 in September. Economists expected a reading of 59.5. All components fell, including employment, prices, new orders and production. All remained above a 50 reading, though, indicating expansion.
Construction spending showed surprise growth in September. The Census Bureau reported a 0.3% increase in spending over that month, triple the growth seen in August. Economists expected spending to come in flat.
Crude oil prices ended slightly lower after gaining by more than 1% earlier in the session. A retreat from highs came even as crude inventories dropped in the past week. Crude supplies in the U.S. fell by 2.4 million barrels in the week ended Oct. 27, according to the Energy Information Administration. That was not as steep as a drop of 5.1 million barrels reported by the American Petroleum Institute, but above estimates of a 1.4 million decline. Gas and distillates stockpiles also fell.
Prices had been higher earlier in the day, even reaching their best level since mid-2015, on reports Organization Petroleum Exporting Countries were hitting higher compliance levels in their deal to cut supply. According to Reuters, production among OPEC members dropped by 80,000 barrels a day in October, putting the overall compliance level at 92%. Compliance was at 86% in September.
West Texas Intermediate crude oil settled 0.2% lower at $54.30 a barrel on Wednesday.
Ford Motor Co. (F) posted an increase in vehicle sales over October. Total sales in the U.S. increased by 6.2%, largely driven by an increase in truck sales. Car sales fell 2.4%, while truck sales rose 11.4%. The automaker's F-series truck saw sales rise by 15.9%.
General Motors Co. (GM) reported a decrease in unit sales over October, though held onto its market share. Sales dropped by 2.2%, led by a 3.8% decrease at its Chevrolet brand and 4.5% at Buick. The automaker reported retail market share at 17% or higher for its third straight month, the first time it has done that since 2011.
Toyota Motor Corp. (TM) reported an increase in October unit sales, though at a far slower pace than expected. Sales rose by 1.1% last month, a fraction of the 6.3% increase forecast by Kelley Blue Book. Lexus sales dropped 7.7%, while Camry sales declined 11%.
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