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Market Snapshot: S&P 500, Nasdaq end higher after Fed vows to buy bonds until economy heals

Market Snapshot

Wall Street also watching talks on another fiscal relief package out of Washington

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell

Eric Baradat/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Stocks closed near record territory Wednesday after the Federal Reserve vowed to keep monetary policy accommodative through ultra low interest rates and asset purchases until the economy makes “substantial future” progress on its labor market and inflation goals.

How did major benchmarks fare?
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average
    fell 44.77 point, or 0.2%, to close at 30,154.54, after briefly trading positive earlier in the session.

  • The S&P 500 index
    rose 6.55 points, or 0.2%, ending at 3,701.17.

  • The Nasdaq Composite
    added 63.13 points, or 0.5%, to finish at a record 12,658.19, after touching an intraday record.

Stocks ended broadly higher Tuesday, with the Nasdaq Composite closing at a record.

What drove the market?

Stocks closed near record territory after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell promised once again to use the central bank’s full range of tools until the labor market and the economy recover from the pandemic, in his last policy briefing of 2020.

Powell warned of a challenging period over “the next couple of months” amid surging COVID-19 cases in the U.S. and abroad as governments work on a broad vaccine rollout.

To that end, the Fed also said it would keep buying bonds until it sees lower U.S. unemployment and higher inflation and will buy at least $80 billion a month of Treasury bonds and $40 billion of agency mortgage-backed securities.

“There definitely were no surprises,” Blaine Rollins, chief market strategist at 361 Capital, told MarketWatch. “The Fed is seeing what we’re seeing in terms of the virus.”

Despite the current, dark phase of the pandemic, Rollins also said he’s optimistic about the economy returning to a “rip-roaring mode” next year if an effective vaccine can be widely distributed in the coming months. “I’m sick of being cooped up. I know I’m not the only one.”

See also: Fed predicts faster decline in unemployment in 2021, but sticks to cautious forecast for the U.S. economy

Optimism also was running high over prospects for another fiscal relief package from Congress, after top lawmakers from both parties met face-to-face late Tuesday, though the negotiations showed few clear signs of progress.

“The stimulus is more important because it has an impact on what the Fed will or will not do down the road,” said Kathy Jones, chief fixed income strategist at Schwab Center for Financial Research, in an interview with MarketWatch.

Investors have focused on the rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc.
and BioNTech SE
and rapid progress toward other vaccines, as the pandemic has intensified but may help to revive the economy in 2021.

Coronavirus update: COVID-19 hospitalizations rise to a 10th-straight daily record, as nearly 3,000 die in the past day

In U.S. economic data, November retail sales figures showed a 1.1% slide during the month, dwarfing the 0.4% decline forecast by economists surveyed by MarketWatch, as the resurgence in coronavirus cases prompted new restrictions in some states on consumer activity.

Purchasing managers index readings from IHS Market showed the impact of the pandemic on the services sector, while data on October business inventories showed intensifying stockpiling. A December reading for a home builders’ index showed sentiment retreated during the month.

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Separately, as parties to the Brexit negotiations continued talking, the EU said there was a “path to agreement,” helping bolster European stocks.

Which companies were in focus?
How did other markets do?

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note
 eged less than 1 basis point lower to 0.920% after the Fed didn’t shift its bond-buying program to focus more on longer-dated bonds.

The ICE U.S. Dollar Index,
 a measure of the currency against a basket of six major rivals, was 0.2% lower at 90.28.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 Europe index
settled 0.8% higher and London’s FTSE 100 benchmark
rose 0.9%.

Oil futures ended up 0.4% a day after settling at a more than nine-month high, even as inventories shrank. The U.S. benchmark
 settled at $47.82 a barrel.

Gold futures
 for February settled up 0.2% at $1,859.10 an ounce, as traders waited for signals on fiscal stimulus and Brexit talks.

Read next: Here’s how trendy ETFs can do double-duty in your portfolio

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