Stocks extended their recent rally Tuesday after the Federal Reserve’s latest take on the economy raised hopes that the central bank’s string of interest rate hikes are coming to an end.
Minutes from the Fed’s Open Market Committee meeting Nov. 1 showed that policy makers remained worried that high energy prices would spark widespread inflation — all but guaranteeing more rate hikes. Yet the Fed also said it would remain sensitive to economic data and conscious of what those rate hikes would do to a slowing economy, which investors treated as a possible signal that the Fed could end rate hikes over the next few months.
The release of the minutes turned the market around, lifting stock indexes out of losses and giving new life to Wall Street’s November rally.
“This is really what we needed to keep this rally going,” said Scott Wren, equity strategist for A.G. Edwards & Sons. “The Fed seems to be recognizing that there may come a time to stop raising rates, and that’s very good for stocks.”
The Dow Jones industrial average finished the day up 51.15 points, or 0.5 percent, while the broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index added 6.38 points, or 0.5 percent. The Nasdaq composite index, full of technology stocks, gained 11.89 points, or 0.5 percent.
Bonds moved higher after the Fed minutes were released, with the yield on the 10-year Treasury note slipping to 4.43 percent from 4.47 percent late Monday. The dollar was mixed against other currencies.
Crude oil rose for a second straight day in anticipation of a cold Thanksgiving weekend in the Northeast. If oil continues to rise through the winter heating season, that could combine with interest rates to slow down the economy faster than expected and prevent stocks from continuing their rise through 2006.
“The rise in oil prices and concern over the Fed’s interest rate policy are very troubling to the market,” said Hugh Johnson, chairman and chief investment officer of Johnson Illington Advisors. “That’s going to present a challenge to this rally.”
Wall Street also received good news from the National Retail Federation, which said holiday shopping could be stronger than first forecast this year. The retail sector held up well on the report, with Wal-Mart Stores Inc. adding 58 cents to $50.20 and Target Corp. gaining 15 cents to $55.07.
A handful of earnings reports came out Tuesday. Albertson’s Inc. said its quarterly earnings, hurt by the Gulf Coast hurricanes, fell 30 percent for the most recent quarter, and missed Wall Street’s profit forecasts by 6 cents per share. Albertson’s fell 6 cents to $24.60.
Farm equipment maker Deere & Co. surged $4.40, or 7 percent, to $67.40 even as it saw its fourth-quarter earnings tumble 35 percent amid production cutbacks. The company still beat analysts’ profit estimates by 17 cents per share, and revenues also surpassed expectations.
Food manufacturer H.J. Heinz Co. posted a 2 percent gain in quarterly profits thanks to a one-time gain related to discontinued operations. The results beat Wall Street forecasts by 2 cents per share on an operating basis. Heinz rose 62 cents to $35.68.
In acquisition news, PepsiCo Inc. added 97 cents to $59.37 after it said it would buy Sara Lee Corp.’s European nut businesses for approximately $152 million. Sara Lee gained 5 cents to $18.01.
Overseas, Japan’s Nikkei stock average rose 0.19 percent. In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 closed up 0.35 percent, France’s CAC-40 fell 0.12 percent and Germany’s DAX index added 0.08 percent.