New York: US stocks finished flat to slightly higher on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve reiterated its intention to keep interest rates low for the foreseeable future to ensure a sustainable economic recovery.
Wall Street trimmed gains after the Fed voted unanimously to keep benchmark borrowing costs in a range of zero to 0.25%, which represents historic lows.
The central bank’s policy-making committee also reminded markets it will let most of the special liquidity facilities, which have helped bolster the US banking system after last year’s credit crisis, expire by early next year.
“The liquidity pullback, people are looking at it and saying we’re not going to get that free run that we’ve had in the stock market, we’re not going to have all that free capital that we had previously,” said Dan Cook, senior market analyst at IG Markets in Chicago.
“That will have people concerned, heading into the new year.”
Financial stocks, which had initially climbed after sources said global banking regulators will give institutions a grace period before enforcing more stringent capital rules, also slipped after the Fed’s statement.
The S&P Financial Index rose 0.7%, retreating from earlier gains of more than 1%. JP Morgan Chase & Co, a Dow component and the second-largest US bank, added 1.2% to $41.36.
The Dow Jones industrial average slipped 10.88 points, or 0.10% to end at 10,441.12. But the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index gained 1.25 points, or 0.11%, to finish at 1,109.18. The Nasdaq Composite Index added 5.86 points, or 0.27%, to close at 2,206.91.
After the closing bell, Citigroup Inc shares slid 3.5% to $3.33 after CNBC reported the bank’s equity offering had been priced at $3.15 per share.
Earlier in the session, data from the Labour Department showed the overall US Consumer Price Index rose 0.4% in November, in line with expectations, which eased inflation worries and lifted stocks.
Home builders’ stocks climbed after Commerce Department data showed new US housing starts increased 8.9% in November, the largest monthly percentage gain since May, indicating the housing sector remains on a steady recovery path.
The Dow Jones US Home Construction index jumped 4.4%, led by KB Home, up 6% at $13.59 on the New York Stock Exchange.
But after the closing bell, shares of Hovnanian Enterprises Inc tumbled 13.2% to $3.67 in extended trade after the No. 5 US home builder posted a quarterly loss that was much bigger than Wall Street’s expectations.
During the regular session, chipmaker Intel slid 2.1% to $19.38 on Nasdaq after the US government accused the chipmaker of illegally using its market dominance to stifle competition.
Investors, particularly those with significant holdings in banking stocks, also noted the news from Washington that two bills were introduced on Wednesday to reinstate the 1930s-era Glass-Steagall Act to split commercial and investment banking. The proposed legislation is part of an effort in Congress to curb Wall Street’s excesses after last year’s financial crisis and the meltdown in the stock market.