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Market Snapshot: U.S. stocks end at records after Fed says economy recovering and tapering of bond purchases will start this month

U.S. stocks finished higher in record territory Wednesday, after the Federal Reserve acted as expected by announcing its plans to start tapering its $120 billion in monthly bond purchases later this month.

In a statement Wednesday, the Fed said it would reduce the pace of purchases by $15 billion per month, but said tapering is not on a preset patch.

How did stock index trade?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average
DJIA,
+0.29%

added 104.95 points, or 0.3%, after flipping positive to close at a record 36,157.58.

The S&P 500
SPX,
+0.65%

gained 29.92 points, or 0.7%, ending at a record 4,660.57.

The Nasdaq Composite
COMP,
+1.04%

added 161.98 points, or 1%, finishing at an all-time high of 15,811.58.

The small-cap Russell 2000
RUT,
+1.80%

added 1.8%, to close at a record.

On Tuesday, the Dow closed above 36,000 for the first time, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite also closed at records. They were joined in record territory by the small-cap Russell 2000
RUT,
+1.80%
,
which logged its first record finish since March 15.

Need to Know: The ‘Dow 36,000’ authors weren’t just 17 years late. Here’s the key mistake they made

What drove the market?

Stocks pushed further into record territory, after the Federal Reserve’s decision on Wednesday to join other central banks in starting to reduce pandemic monetary aid.

The decision by Chairman Jerome Powell and his colleagues was no surprise, with investors largely expecting confirmation of the start of a reduction in its bond purchases.

To kick things off, the Fed plans to start reducing its footprint in financial markets later this month, by trimming $15 billion off its prior $120 billion monthly rate of bond purchases. The central bank also indicated it will be flexible in its path of tapering going forward, while anticipating its balance sheet, currently near $8.6 trillion, would cease growing by mid-next year.

U.S. Treasury debt yields ticked up, in reaction, while the three major U.S. stock indexes swept to a fourth straight day of record closes, the most since Oct. 5, 2017, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

“That’s in anticipation of tighter monetary policy,” said Michael Arone, managing director of State Street Global Advisors, in a phone interview.

Small cap-stocks also expanded their gains, he said, noting the this segment of the stock market also performed well the the last time the Fed announced tapering. “The Fed is signaling to investors they anticipate the economy to be on pretty firm footing and likely to be better,” Arone said.

Powell, in an afternoon news conference, said the central bank can be patient on increasing policy interest rates, while also noting that maximum employment could be achieved by the second half of 2022, a requirement for any rate hike.

The Fed Chair also said inflation, a key concern for investors, was tied less to higher wages than supply-chain bottlenecks.

See: Fed still thinks surging U.S. inflation won’t last, but it’s now hedging its bets

Kathy Jones, chief fixed income strategist at the Schwab Center for Financial Research, said that Powell has “a difficult job” to walk the line between balancing the risks of inflation and a job market recovery that may not be achieved as quickly as initially expected, in a phone interview.

“Inflation is the big worry,” said David Petrosinelli, senior trader at InspereX, but he also pointed to concerns about whether U.S. consumers and businesses feel the Fed can adequately deal with inflation pressures going forward, particularly as a host of companies in the third-quarter earnings season suggest that higher prices could continue through 2023.

“It’s a very different time, and I wonder if monetary policy is as effective when it comes to addressing supply-side dynamics,” Petrosinelli said. “What does a rate hike have to do with someone coming back to work? Or container ships piled up out of Long Beach?”

In U.S. economic data, privately run U.S. businesses created 571,000 new jobs in October, an ADP survey found. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had forecast a rise of 395,000.

The Institute for Supply Management’s closely watched services index for October jumped to a record 66.7% from 61.9% in September, surpassing expectations for a reading of 62%. A reading of more than 50% signals expanding activity.

In the same vein, IHS Markit said its U.S. services sector purchasing managers index came in at 58.7 in October, up from 54.9 in September and above its earlier “flash” estimate of 58.2.

What companies were in focus?

Zillow Group Inc.
Z,
-24.92%

ZG,
-22.95%

shares fell 21.6% after the real estate giant late Tuesday pulled the plug on its home-flipping business and said it expected losses of more than $550 million on homes purchased in the second half of this year for which the company admits it paid too much.

Shares of Bed Bath & Beyond
BBBY,
+15.22%

climbed 15.2% after the retailer late Tuesday announced a partnership with grocery chain Kroger
KR,
+5.53%
.
The popular meme stock also said it was ahead of its share buyback schedule.

Shares of Activision Blizzard
ATVI,
-14.06%

tumbled 14.1% after the videogame publisher’s lighter-than-expected outlook and expected delay of two games overshadowed an earnings beat.

Lyft Inc.
LYFT,
+8.19%

shares surged 8.2% after the ride-share company posted a 73% annual rise in revenue.

New York Times Co.
NYT,
-9.57%

shares shed 9.6% after the newspaper group beat earnings estimates and offered upbeat guidance.

CVS Health Corp. 
CVS,
+5.69%

beat estimates by 19 cents with adjusted quarterly earnings of $1.97 per share and revenue beating Wall Street forecasts. The drugstore chain and pharmacy-benefits manager got a boost from increased demand for Covid testing and vaccinations. Shares rose 5.7%.

Humana
HUM,
+0.51%

reported adjusted quarterly earnings of $4.83 per share, beating the estimate of $4.66, while revenue was a beat on strength in the health insurer’s Medicare Advantage business. Shares rose 0.5%.

Shares of Avis Budget Group Inc.
CAR,
-16.54%

fell 16.1% after Wall Street downgrades that followed the 108% rise for shares of the car-rental company on Tuesday — a move attributed to a short squeeze fueled by a meme-stock frenzy.

Read: It’s not a typo, the Dow transports really rose more than 1,000 points, because of Avis’ stock

How did other assets trade?

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note 
TMUBMUSD10Y,
1.606%

rose 3.1 basis points to 1.577%. Yields and debt prices move in opposite directions.

Oil futures ended lower, with the U.S. benchmark 
CL00,
-4.70%

dropping 3.6% to settle at $80.86 a barrel. Gold futures 
GC00,
-0.91%

fell 1.4% to settle at $1,763.90 an ounce.

The Stoxx Europe 600 Index 
SXXP,
+0.35%

 closed up 0.4%, while London’s FTSE 100
UKX,
-0.36%

 fell 0.4%.

The Shanghai Composite 
SHCOMP,
-0.20%

 fell 0.2%, while the Hang Seng Index 
HSI,
-0.30%

fell by a similar amount in Hong Kong and Japan’s Nikkei 225 
NIK,
-0.43%

shed 0.4%.

Barbara Kollmeyer contributed reporting

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